Tuesday, June 24, 2008

PLANT OF MY WEEK: Cape fuchsia

Say 'Hi' to Phygelius a.k.a. Cape fuchsia. An exotic tender perennial native to South Africa, this plant sports some for-real funk (as do most of S. African plant life).  

This plant stands out to me this week for a couple of reasons. First of all . . . HOW COOL! I really love the architecture of the panicle (define: simply put, a branched inflorescence in which the basal or lateral flowers open first). Delicate, yet oddly sturdy, the thick petals dangle airily at almost 90º from their candelabra structure.  Sun? Part shade? No problem! Super-versatile Phygelius will show off in either setting. Continually blooming all summer, this tender perennial will push out new panicles all summer. Just be sure to keep these plants well-groomed; the plants will slow down if the spent flowers are not removed.

Then there are the interestingly oddball colors.  Glossy, dark green basal foliage contrasts with the intriguing palette of floral colors.  You'll have to see it for yourself, but the colors are "off": brick red, orange salmon, ice yellow, fuchsia, white. For some varieties, the inside of the tubular flowers offer a subtle surprise: bright red, clear yellow tantalize the ants and worms (the only creatures low enough to look up) as they pass.

The pendulous and airy blossoms are irresistible to hummingbirds which makes this fascinating plant gorgeous and useful.  One of my clients just LOVES hummingbirds.  So, last year I used P. aequalis 'Trewidden Pink' in her container plantings.  I combined it with Talinum paniculatum Jewels of Opar; a pretty dynamite combo.  This year, I found TWO varieties that I love: dark fuchsia 'New Sensation', and pale orange 'Salmon Leap'.  I planted these directly into the garden beds to fill in gaps.  Photos to come! 

Want more?  Read these articles about Phygelius, its species, hybrids and cultivars:   

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