Gardening: ‘Great climbers with colour this autumn’

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Passiflora (Passion flower) is a dramatic climber that has flowers into the autumn.

Passiflora (Passion flower) is a dramatic climber that has flowers into the autumn.

When Spanish priests first saw this flower growing in the forests of Brazil, they described it as follows: “ the flower represents the symbols of Christ’s Passion, each bloom opens flat to reveal an outer circle of ten white petals (the Disciples, minus Judas and Peter), within these occur a ring of fine purple-blue filaments (the crown of thorns) and in the centre are conspicuous anthers (the nails), while the wounds are represented by five yellowish stains”.

Most of the passion flower species come from the tropical regions of the world and are classified as tender plants so they will not survive frosts. The tender species need a warm glasshouse to survive. Grow them in sandy, well-drained soil that is not too fertile. Water freely during the growing season and sparingly in winter, avoid overfeeding them with fertiliser because it will produce too much foliage and little flowers.

The hardier species may be grown outdoor in well-drained, moderately fertile soil in full sun with shelter from cold winds. They grow rapidly each year using their tendrils to attach themselves to supports or to climb up through a tree or shrub. Passiflora caerulea (Blue passion flower) is one of the hardier species that is commonly grown in this country. It can be evergreen in mild winters, in very cold winters it will die down to ground level but new shoots will emerge from the base in spring. It is a very vigorous climber that has a reach and spread of 20 feet or more when grown in favourable conditions. It produces large saucer-shaped flowers with creamy white petals and a ring of blue and purple filaments. It will flower from late summer if the weather has been warm. After the flower it produces large orange fruit which are edible but do not have an outstanding flavour.

Itea Ilicifolia

This is another late flowering climber that comes from China. It is a spreading evergreen shrub, with arching branches that can be trained into a very nice climber. It has spiny, glossy dark green leaves like holly leaves. It produces an abundance of narrow, pendulous, catkin-like flowers that can be up to 12 inches long. The individual flowers are tiny and densely packed, greenish-white in colour. The flowers are produced from late summer to early autumn. The flowers are fragrant with a hint of honey scent. It likes a fertile, moist but well drained soil in full sun or partial shade. If grown in full sun the soil needs to be moist. In cold or exposed gardens it needs shelter from cold winds.


The flowers on cyclamen can be produced at any time of the year depending upon the variety. The pretty, pink or white flowers and attractive foliage makes a charming sight in a shaded rock garden, under a tree or around the base of a shrub. They are one of the few bulbs that will grow under conifers. Most of them flower early in the year, while others wait until late summer and autumn.

The leaves have a lovely shape and are often beautifully marked. They will grow in almost any well-drained soil in a shady position. Since many of them come from woodlands, the soil must contain sufficient humus, they should be covered once a year with a light mulch of well composed leaves. Plant the tubers in late summer and early autumn.

The tubers do not divide or produce offsets, cyclamen propagate themselves rapidly by self seeding. Seedlings usually flower after two years. Cyclamen hederifolium is a hardy variety that produces white or pink flowers on stems, 4 inches, tall in the autumn. The leaves are variegated with a marble effect and appear only after the flowers have disappeared. They will last through the winter into spring. When planting barely cover the tubers with soil and add a layer of leafmould each year after flowering.

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Flower buds are swelling nicely on camallias now. Water them regularly during this dry spell that we are enjoying. If the roots dry out the flower buds can fall off at any stage. Flower buds almost open in spring and then drop due to lack of water in late summer and autumn.

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