This chap is dashed exciting and one of my favourite sights to behold in the garden! It is an herbaceous climber, native to Chile. In summer, arresting red blooms break out over its host, followed later on by bright blue seed pods! It looks particularly fantastic scrambling over Yew, as red is opposite to green on the colour spectrum, so a sharp contrast is formed when the two combine! Lawrence Johnston was particularly fond of this plant, and had it growing up various hedges about the place (see this archive image here). It forms a fleshy white tuber after several years of growth, and this needs to be kept shaded and moist but certainly not too damp. The top growth though likes to reach out into the sun, so positioning can be tricky.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the seeds of this old boy are a bugger to get going! I have just recently attempted to grow this for the first time, and as far as I can gather the best method is to sow seed in late-summer, and then leave the tray outside in a shaded position to experience the full pelt of the seasons, in a bid to break the seed dormancy before germination the following spring. Jekka McVicar, in her wonderful ‘Seeds’ book, lays claim to a faster method, sowing freshly collected seed in autumn and then leaving them outside in the cold frame. However the herb lady says that if there isn’t any action to speak of after four weeks then dormancy has perhaps already set in, and the tray should be bunged outside as above! Of course, as is so often the case, what one man can’t have another is chock full to the gills with. Over at Rowallane our Irish friends have this plant growing as a weed, and it has to be diligently picked out of the rock garden where it has chosen to take hold!
I am back from college now, and feeling buoyed after passing my RHS exams! Unfortunately it isn’t all good news as three of the next four Fridays are deadline days, so it’s back to the books for now.