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Gardening with Gael - Rare creeper easily maintained



tecomanthe speciosa at Bennetts-631It is raining. The first night I couldn’t sleep I was so excited listening to it and imagining the joy of the plants. It’s a pleasure to actually walk out in it because it is so refreshing. The air is still warm, the ground is warm and this rain makes the plants feel they are in a tropical climate.

The wisterias are growing before my eyes, their tendrils reaching out and wrapping themselves around available support. Everyone agrees, it is almost possible to see the plants growing. I am constantly amazed how resilient they can be. Limp gerberas and luculias spring back to life. My tea plantation has suffered a bit of sunburn but valiantly continues to grow. This rain is a wonderful reward for all the gardens.

A climber that has literally grown before my eyes is the tecomanthe speciosa planted by Harry Bennett down in the courtyard at Bennett’s Chocolate Factory.

“What do you think?” said Harry indicating the plants he had just planted.

“I think they’ll be fabulous,” I said. “This couldn’t be a more perfect location for them. ”Planted against the pillars the climbers get the sun and semi-shade position they like.

Their high gloss foliage – consisting of thick ovate to oblong lanceolate 3–5 lobed leaflets – provides a subtropical ambience and gives the courtyard an atmosphere of tranquillity. I have planted tecomanthe speciosa along fences and around decks and I don’t remember them being particularly fast growing, and so it is with amazement that I have watched these creeper growing like triffids over the summer. Harry has trained them up the pillars and they are now snaking their way across the roof.

It is truly heartening to see a rare, and once endangered, plant thriving. Originally found on the Three Kings Island the species had been almost extinguished by goats. According to one Google theory the one remaining plant on the Three Kings was growing on a cliff so steep that even the goats couldn’t get it. This makes it an ideal plant for our coastal climate.

A strong woody climber belonging to the bignoniaceae family, creamy white to pale lemon tubular or trumpet shaped flowers are born on wood from the previous spring during winter. They slightly resemble rhododendron flowers in shape and size and follow the form of other flowers in the Bignonia family [pandorea pandorana or wonga wonga vine, podranea ricasoliana or Port St John Creeper, and one of my favourites pyrostegia or Flame Vine] all of which have smaller versions of the tubular flowers with slightly curled petals. My Palmers Garden Guide describes the flowers as ‘foxglove like’.

Often overlooked because it is reasonably rare, this is a creeper that deserves more consideration in our gardens. Unlike jasmine and wisteria it doesn’t threaten to overgrow your entire house and even the entire property and surrounding bush. As a result it is easily

maintained. A free draining soil enriched with compost is all they require. Because they are of a subtropical nature they prefer temperatures over three degrees Celsius.

Glancing about my garden I have decided it is the perfect specimum for the fence Box has erected to keep the dog contained. I had been considering wisteria, but a beautiful subtropical native is a much better choice. Meanwhile I will watch Harry’s with great interest.


RARE: The tecomanthe speciosa climbs its way up a pillar in Bennett’s courtyard.

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