Monday, 24 July 2017

Borderline plants no more

The 'fake news' of climate warming is having some interesting consequences on wildlife and gardens. With seven European Bee Eaters, Merops apiaster, turning up in Yorkshire a few weeks ago and the steady march northwards of species such as the Wasp Spider, Argiope bruennichi, the False Widow Spider, Steatoda nobilis (now also cropping up in Yorkshire) and the Hornet Hoverfly, Volucella zonaria, occurring almost anywhere, this is an exciting time to be a naturalist.
I was reminded of this earlier today when walking home from our allotment. My route took me up Kingsley Avenue here in Daventry and I was delighted to see a strong-growing plant of the Trumpet Vine, Campsis radicans, trained against a brick wall.

Is it one plant or are there two? Kingsley Avenue, Daventry.
24 July, 2017
Nowadays it is not a very demanding plant, requiring only a sheltered wall and protection from very cold winds. Campsis grandiflora, the only other member of the genus, is rather similar in appearance but with flowers in drooping trusses; it demands similar conditions. I am surprised not to see it more often (perhaps I should grow it) because, barring a really severe frost, it should be safe.
The name Trumpet Vine is well-earned.
Nevertheless, twenty or thirty years ago, to grow this member of the Bignoniaceae outside London or away from the milder parts of Britain would have been a real risk. It hails from the south-eastern parts of the U.S.A. such as Virginia, where it is visited (and pollinated?) by hummingbirds.
The last two or three days have been showery and rather cool so when I arrived home I was pleasantly surprised to find our myrtle bush in flower. Myrtle, Myrtus communis, is theoretically less of a gamble than the Trumpet Vine but nevertheless some people have difficulty with it. It is described in Hilliers Manual of Trees and Shrubs as 'hardy in many localities, particularly by the sea'. The implication is that it is not fully hardy, particularly in inland localities.
Our Myrtle shrub has burst into bloom in the last 24 hours.
Stefen Hill, Daventry. 24 July, 2017
It is a Mediterranean species and I have frequently found it growing wild on rocky, scrub-covered hillsides. I have also seen a drink, made from the edible berries, for sale but have never been brave enough to sample it. The shrub has been a symbol of peace and love since classical times and it was sacred to Aphrodite, the Greek equivalent of the Roman Venus. In the wild it can make a large shrub up to five metres high; understandably more compact forms have been selected for garden use.
The plant gives its name to the Myrtaceae, a tropical and sub-tropical family found from Spain, across the middle east and southern Asia and over to Australia. The Bottlebrush shrubs (Callistemon species) and Eucalyptus are all members of this interesting group of plants.

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