Distictis or Mexican Blood flower. The vine growing as shelter over the deck is
D. buccinatoria, which if you can get over the tedious name, is a member of
another large plant family, the Bignoniacea clan. I
‘discovered’ this conspicuous and vigorous climber from a Belvedere in Ravello
looking down to the pergola below, while driving along the spectacular Amalfi
Drive south of Naples. Gloriously in bloom among pink roses and
violet morning glories in joyful Italian excess, it made such an impression I
added it to my ‘must-have’ list.
Vigorous and hardy here in my frost-free hilltop, I remember
those glorious days as I drove around back country roads in southern Italy. I have been watching our active Tui visitors
pierce the tube like flowers looking for nectar. Severe pruning is recommended when winter
Euphorbia, a member of the large family of so-called milk weeds that through 1600
varieties ranges from tedious ground level weeds, to tree-like form; the
Christmas Poinsettia for example.
In my garden right now is E. characias sub species wulfenii,
making a long lasting show, and great as a cut-flower, providing you like green
flowers. As the name suggests, the
plants bleed a milky white juice, to be aware of, as It can cause blisters on
sensitive skin. As a cut flower, dip
stem ends in boiling water for a few seconds to seal them. In this variety, new stems of blue-ish green
foliage emerge when the old flowers are cut back.
There are several other appealing members of the milk weed
family, notably, a red-orange flowered form, E. griffithii, with a selection, ‘Fireglow’, a terrific edition to the hot border. Then there is something
different, a subtly shaded variegated form called in the nursery “Silver Swan’,
or E. variegata with greyish leaves,
cream bordered, and its flowers almost wholly cream, perfect as a refined cut flower.
With spring moving swiftly into summer, garden maintenance is all important; Pruning can still be done while trimming and generally tidying up the garden is what keeps me busy. I discovered the fearsome mealy bug had decided to attack the young growth of the Lapageria and its neighboring Stephanotis (native to Madagascar) and I decided it was time to tackle the beast. Repeated spraying with conqueror oil takes care of this potential disaster.
Lapageria occurs naturally in the forrest of southern Chile's temperate rain-forest areas. This evergreen climber with leathery leaves has a peculiar growing habit vines twine counter clockwise in the southern hemisphere and clockwise growing in the north. The flowers have 6 thick waxy tepals (petals) usually a light cherry red with small white spots flowering here in the late summer through February and my now mature plants produced fruit, like the size of an oval tomato, containing myriad seeds. In nature the plant is pollinated by hummingbirds and sadly is increasingly rare in the wild due to over collecting.
The flowers are normally red with others in shades of dark pink and there is a very lovely and rare white flowered form L. rosea var. albiflora which is growing happily in my car port. This is a choice and delightful flowering vine if you can provide hospitable growing conditions, semi shaded trellis or through the branches of an open bush.