Sunday, 3 January 2010


Seven years ago I bought a plant of this climber from an Alpine specialist in Slack Top near Heptonstall in Yorkshire. It is not an Alpine, of course; in fact it's the national flower of Chile and an extremely vigorous climber given the right conditions. But the nursery owners had a wonderful specimen then in their cold greenhouse along the side of their house and it was in wondrous and prolific bloom. They had managed to raise a few plants from seed and these were for sale. They were tiny and cost £6 each. I wanted one badly as I had tried to grow it myself from seed years ago, seed I bought from Chiltern Seeds in Cumbria. Only three of the seeds germinated but when I potted them on they withered and died. I know they need very special care, and don't like any kind of disturbance, in short they're difficult creatures, and I looked at these tiny plants and thought yes, no, yes, no, YES!!

I did my very best for it and it grew and is now in a very heavy, very large pot. It goes outside every summer and I struggle to bring it in every winter, then fall over it at regular intervals - there isn't really room here for such a big thing, and it has to have a big pot as it likes a good, deep root run (as well as a precise amount of moisture, peaty compost, good drainage, tolerable warmth, and no draughts).

So the third thing in my list of Great Wonders from 2009 is that it finally flowered! It had 6 fabulous, long, waxy bells of the clearest, deepest rose pink and oh my God I couldn't believe my luck. It was utterly, utterly gorgeous.

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