I've had some notable successes in the past when plants that are far too tender to survive outside in Plymouth nonetheless came through one or more winters. Sparmannia africana survived for three winters, normally regenerating to come back strongly after being cut back quite hard, although one winter it was almost unscathed and produced it's early spring flowers - the first I've seen outside in the UK.
|February 2007 flowers on Sparmannia africana|
|Sparmannia and Ipomea indica in 2006|
A prior occupant of the spot was a nice Brugmansia. This made quite a substantial shrub before succumbing. It flowered reliably and, on warmer evenings, the scent was intoxicating, wafting through the garden and, if we had a window open, into the house. The variety I know not - Brugmansia 'Pink' was the label. But whatever it was, it survived outdoors for a couple of years and longer from cuttings in my greenhouse.
Last year was the turn of Fuchsia boliviana 'Alba'. I'd grown this a greenhouse plant for a few years and managed to rescue it when the greenhouse was destroyed by gales. Nothing ventured, it went into the corner but, alas, did not re-appear this spring after our hardest winter for years. I've got another plant - it's one of my favourites - but I'm not retrying it outside until I can build up a stock. I value the long tubular flowers too highly to risk losing it. It's not that easy to find.
|Fuchsia boliviana 'Alba'|
|Fuchsia boliviana 'Alba'|
On the wall, starting to climb my wire framework, is Passiflora 'Purple Haze'. This is a new one to me. Passiflora caerulea is hardy with me in the open garden though, sadly, its beautiful white form 'Constance Elliott' succumbed two winters ago. A shame - they cross pollinated and produced a lot of fruit, something I don't get from the normal blue form on it's own. There is a small edible core in a mass of inedible flesh - but it's not likely to catch on as a crop. 'Purple Haze' is a P.caerulea and P.amethystina cross and reputed to be hardy to about -8C so should (fingers firmly crossed) be a reliable plant on my warm wall. No photos yet - it's still a baby - but I'm looking forward it occupying the vertical space.
In front I've added a plant of Iochroma grandiflorum. This, like the closely related Brugmansias, is a South American cloud forest plant, in this case from Peru and Ecuador. It should relish our cool, wet summers. I got a quite substantial plant cheaply from Hill House Nursery and it's settling in nicely and has already produced some of the beautiful, tubular blue flowers that should be borne in increasing numbers as the summer progresses. I've grown other species of Iochroma in the past and this has by far the largest flowers - 7cm long and 2.5cm across the flared bell of the blossom. Once it gets into its stride it should carry quite large bunches of these at the shoot tips. Hopefully I'll be able to update the blog with a better picture.
So, two new tender(ish) plants. Time will tell if they survive next winter. I can - and will - provide some protection. But, whether they survive or simply add to the growing collection of labels of no longer extant plants, I'll have a bit of fun. And learn a bit more about growing tender plants outside in my Plymouth garden.