On my kitchen table lies a medium-sized envelope crammed full of Eccremocarpus scaber seeds and their pods. Sitting at my kitchen table I can see clearly the lemon flowers from one variety and the pink flowers from the other variety sunning themselves happily on the roof of the pergola.
I am fairly new to growing Eccremocarpus and was first given a seedling of the orange-coloured variety a few years ago and another seedling last year which I planted on my south-facing fence. The seedling did not take kindly to the clay soil and hardly flowered. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t survive the winter.
However, two years ago at a rare plant fair I bought two seedlings – a pink flowering variety and a lemon flowering variety. Not having much confidence in their survival I planted both in a slightly raised bed on the rear boundary east-facing wall, which the pergola abuts. On this wall are two mature, variegated Trachelospermum jasminoides. The raised bed is extremely narrow and has received small top-ups of compost from time to time. However, I did not rate their survival due to the competition from the neighbouring climbers and the very dry conditions. How wrong I was: the Eccremocarpus seedlings just love their location; the protection the Trachelospermum provides them; the dry soil with added compost; and the baking that the flowers receive from the sun at the top of the pergola.
Eccremocarpus scaber is also known as the Chilean glory-flower or the Chilean glory creeper and was first documented in 1794. It flowers from September to May in the Southern Hemisphere. In New Zealand it is regarded as a pest. And I can see why: the envelope of seed pods on the kitchen table and the dozens of pods still remaining on the pergola to be collected is a testament to its reputation!
But I am not going to allow these climbers to reproduce again. Although they started flowering in early March last year they stopped flowering in early June and I was mystified. I was told to look for seed pods and there they were, their lanterns hanging beneath the mass of foliage. So this year I am going to religiously remove all developing seed pods so that these climbers can flower all summer.
Eccremocarpus is regarded as a perennial species but due to the UK climate they are generally grown as an exotic annual. The foliage is light green and it uses its tendrils to hook onto anything for support. I had difficulty in remembering and pronouncing the name, Eccremocarpus, but I got there in the end! I love the colours of these tubular flowers, that sparkle like jewels in the sun. They provide me with a lot of pleasure. If you grow the orange variety, you could marry it with Thunbergia, Ipomoea or Nasturtium, all of which have orange flowers.
I will be providing a huge number of free packets of seeds in the next few weeks for anyone who has the right conditions: a protected area in their garden that is light, sandy, well-drained but fertile; or a sunny plot on their windowsill or balcony.