When I was young, I enjoyed growing plants from seed. I lost time, rather than interest for it, when I got older and I'm delighted to say that I have come full circle again now. There is something particularly satisfying about seeing a plant flourish from the humble beginnings of a seed. I don't really have the space or the time to do as much as I would like to even now, but who knows what the future holds in terms of horticultural opportunities.
One group of plants often neglected when it comes to seed raising are annual or tender climbers. There are quite a number of them out there that will grow happily enough in a temperate (UK, Irish, New Zealand South Island, Part of the USA and Parts of Europe) garden. I have grown, or experienced lots of them over the years. Here are five that I have grown and have performed well in my gardens in Scotland and England, with less effort than you might imagine. My Top Five, if you will...
Ipomoea lobata (Syn. Mina lobata) (Spanish Flag Vine)
I have always been surprised why you don't see this plant more often for sale as a bedding plant. It is easy enough to grow, though I have found that not all of the seed germinates when setting out. I like the way that the youngest flowers are a rich red, fading as they develop through Orange, reminiscent of the Spanish Flag that provides its common name. The flowers are particularly beautiful in twilight summer sun, where they glow. I like it growing up the edge of hedges, where it benefits from being a tad drier and the flower stands out well against the foliage of the hedge. Once or twice, I've seen it trailing with some success, better given a frame or another plant strong enough for it to scramble up. Plant out in the UK from Mid-may/June depending on temperature and it should flower through to the frosts.
Seed available from the brilliant Chiltern Seeds via this link. CLICK HERE
Cobaea scandens (Cup and Saucer Vine)
For me, the best use of this climber is seasonally growing it up the post of a pergola, or some form of plant support like an obelisk near by a seating area. Very popular with Bumblebees, these huge flowers are both very noticeable and very beautiful. There is a white flowered form available ('Alba'), which I have found to be just as good a grower, if a little slower to start. Perhaps grow both together as a single plant for the ultimate impact. Plant outdoors from end of May in UK and make sure it gets plenty of sun to achieve good growth and flowering. I have seen it survive one or two British winters, but isn't really reliably hardy here. Grows rampantly if grown in a conservatory or greenhouse.
Thunbergia alata (Black-Eyed Susan)
Possibly the hardiest of the list, but still fairly unreliably hardy in the UK. I have seen it survive more than a few winters over the year, but generally only in dry, sheltered spots. Well-known and easy to grow. It can be a little costly to buy plants for growing on during the season, but it is very easily produced from seed and inexpensively. There are a number of coloured forms available and all seem quite beautiful and about as vigorous to grow. Brilliant on a trellis or frame, it grows quickly enough to smother weaker plants during the summer, so be mindful of where you site it. The true orange flowered species (as pictured) is an incredibly vibrant colour and goes well with the equally impressive Ipomoea 'Grandpa Ott' (up next, sorry, spoiler).
Several forms available as seed from the wonderful Chiltern Seeds. CLICK HERE for a link to the gorgeous African Sunset Series.
Ipomoea 'Grandpa Ott' (Morning Glory)
Most Ipomoea are known for there vigour. Indeed, many are more commonly considered weeds than they are charming garden plants. In a different climate, this could well be said of 'Grandpa Ott' too. Beautiful and rampant, seeking out the sun, but not hardy enough to survive most UK winters (yet). A degree or two rise in average temperature could be enough to see this becoming a problem. Capable of a lot of growth in a short space of time, this plant is often a pest in conservatories and greenhouses if it gets into cracks in paving, or the frame of the building itself. Grown outside, it will spread and sprawl during the summer months and succumb to the frosts. Tonnes of flowers produced during the summer on huge volumes of foliar growth. Needs a strong support. Very easy from seed and worth growing for the flower impact of 7-10cm wide flowers in a magical purple-blue. In terms of the name, it seems to be unclear if its species is I. indica, I. purpurea, I. tricolor or a hybrid. Doesn't really matter, but worth noting that you will see it appearing under all of these names.
Available from seed from the wonderful Chiltern Seeds. CLICK HERE for a link to their site.
Rhodochiton atrosanguineum (Purple Bell Vine)
Possibly the most exotic and delicate looking of the bunch, but I've always found it to be as durable. It can take a while for seed to germinate and I've found previously that it germinates in dribs and drabs, so be prepared for this and don't panic. Less intensely vigorous than some others, but gets on with it once seeds have germinated. Don't partner with Thunbergia or Ipomoea 'Grandpa Ott', which will overwhelm it, but do give it some space to stretch out when it establishes. I've seen it in shadier spots, doing surprisingly well, but best advice is to grow in sun. The unusual two-tone pinky-red and dark-purple flower parts are fascinatingly beautiful. Partner with a white or pale Sweetpea to offer contrast and help it scramble up a trellis or frame. After the purple tube-shaped part of the flower falls, the pink calyx remain to give interest further through the season.
Once again, seed can be bought from the fantastic Chiltern Seeds. CLICK THIS LINK to follow to their website.
Cobaea scandens image is an unedited image created by Buendia22 and used under the wikimedia Creative Commons license. It can be found by following this link. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cobaea_scandens_4259.jpg
Rhodochiton atrosanguineum image is an unedited image created by Nzfauna and used under the wikimedia Creative Commons License. It can be found by following this link. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rhodochiton_astrosanguineum_flowers.jpg
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