Home Glasshouse Exotic climbers

Exotic climbers

Fast-growing climbers to cover an eyesore

Cobaea scandens
Tropical flowers from Cobaea scandens, the cup-and-saucer vine

It was a mixed year in 2015 for my half-hardy climbers, only to be expected this far north in a poor summer.

They’re perennials in their tropical homes and can be overwintered under glass, but most people grow them from seed.

All can reach 10ft (3m) in a season, so mind where you plant them!

Five came from Mr. Fothergill’s Mixed Climbers Collection (www.mr-fothergills.co.uk): Cardinal climber, morning glory Grandpa Otts, Chilean glory flower, Spanish flag and hyacinth bean.

Cardinal climber
Scarlet flowers of the Cardinal climber

The sixth is Cobaea scandens, the cup-and-saucer vine, which I grew from seed last year and overwintered.

1. Cardinal climber (Ipomoea quamoclit): intense scarlet flowers open out into small funnels, fern-like foliage turns purple in late summer. Really took off after I moved it into the greenhouse – wasn’t happy outside.

Spanish flag
Spanish flag flowers – very aptly named

2. Spanish flag (Ipomoea lobata syn. Mina lobata): masses of exotic, tubular flowers in shades of crimson to lemon on arching stems. Foliage turns purple in late summer. This one stayed in the greenhouse all the time and flowered beautifully well into autumn.

3. Morning glory Grandpa Otts (Ipomoea purpurea): intense violet-blue flowers marked with a vivid, ruby ‘star’. Fast growing with a long flowering season. Harmful if eaten. Another one that stayed indoors, prolific flowerer.

Morning glory Grandpa Otts
Morning glory Grandpa Otts

4. Cup-and-saucer vine (Cobaea scandens): graceful, fast growing climber with 7cm (3in) bell-shaped flowers changing from green to deep purple. Nearly lost it in a late frost, but has grown at least 6ft. Formed flower buds rather too late in October. Overwintered in the greenhouse, still flowering in February.

Hyacinth bean
Hyacinth bean – all leaves, no flowers

5. Hyacinth bean (Dolichos lab lab): twining vine with leaflets in threes and showy, fragrant bright pink/purple pea-like flowers and pods. A lot of leaf growth outside, but no flowers. Bad summer strikes again.

6. Chilean glory flower (Eccremocarpus scaber): this one didn’t germinate. Furious.