SHAMED AT SISSINGHURST BY MY OWN WILD FLOWER

Phygelius below Freddy's Dam

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…

Phygelius aequalis

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!

Phygelius at Sissinghurst

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. Winking smile

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!

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9 thoughts on “SHAMED AT SISSINGHURST BY MY OWN WILD FLOWER

  1. Somewhere in England, just this side of the Welsh border, we found an open garden. A greenhouse filled with Streptocarpus. Hybrids in an amazing variety. I have now one plant, sulking not flowering ;~((

    • Two days ago my neighbour showed me one that had sported in her garden – instead of being blue with a dark blue throat, it was white with a dark blue throat. Splendid! Set me thinking I must have more myself – and in my new greenhouse they will grow perfectly – I will blog about that soon!

  2. No fool, you! You got your cutting and you will never be without your much admired plant~Now I must go internet image searching to see even more of the inside of this pretty! I am so glad to have two(!) South African gardeners sharing their favorite plants! gail

  3. Jack, I love the fact that you discovered this flower from your own back yard at Sissinghurst. Allan Armitage, who has written a well-known guide to Herbaceous Perennial Plants for the American market, is always complaining about North American native plants that are ignored by American gardeners while they are given pride of place in European gardens.

    • Hello Jean! I have an old 78rpm record of my grandmother doing a talk for the BBC in the late 50s when my grandfather was posted to London, in which she laments the many flowers from South Africa that are known there but not back home. I’ve not listened to it in over 40 years (no 78 player!), and not since my own interest in plants developed. I really must do something about it!

  4. Pingback: WELCOME VIEW–AND GARDENING GONE WILD ENTRY « Sequoia Gardens Blog

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