Three weeks ago I carefully made my gumbooted way through the marshy ground below Freddy’s dam to take this photo – and to collect material for cuttings, now growing on happily outside the back door. They are the first cuttings I’ve ever taken of this wild flower, despite knowing it strikes easily, and despite wishing to do so for nearly sixteen years. And thereby hangs a tale…
Any guesses as to what it is? (And I’m not talking of the yellow flower which is so clearly a St. John’s Wort, one of two species that grow wild on Sequoia!)
Yes. It is Phygelius aequalis – together with a Cape native that tends to yellower shades, P. capensis, it is the parent of the great many popular Phygelius hybrids available around the world today. All of which I knew nothing of that perfect July morning in 1995 when, on a group visit to Sissinghurst, I stooped to admire the strangely dull pink tubes of a very attractive flower – and discovered that inside the tubes were brightly coloured! “What is this?” I exclaimed and one of my fellow tourists laughed and said “But you are from South Africa – don’t you know Phygelius?” I said I did not, and took the following photo – shared here with you thanks to the technological wonders enabling the scanning and editing of old slides – complete with a bit of Sissinghurst brick in the background!
It must have been six months later that a shower of pink flowers below Freddy’s dam wall, which I had never noticed before, attracted my attention. I investigated. They were Phygelius! Never since has the show been as impressive, but every year I notice them, and promise myself to take cuttings of the rather lank and dull plants, if only to be able more easily to tell the story to visitors. Last spring for the first time I got to buy five glorious hybrids from a local grower who is introducing them to South Africa. I planted them near Rosa mutabilis with which, in all its shades, they form a splendid match; but never yet have I managed to photograph them together. I think one of these cuttings should join them.
What was that about a prophet in his own land…? And I speak of Phygelius, most definitely, and not of myself.
This post is dedicated to Gail of Clay and Limestone who started us all blogging about our wild flowers on Wildflower Wednesday, the fourth Wednesday of every month. Hail to thee, O Gail, from The Fool in the Veldt!