Chilean Plants in my Garden
During a wander around my garden recently I was struck by the influence Chilean plants in my garden have on our late spring gardens!
My first stop was by an as yet half grown evergreen that was laden with what looks like ripe red plums! More often described as red lanterns than plums, the Crinodendron looked spectacular in the evening sun! This rather upright growing evergreen tree is multi-stemmed and positioned right on the edge of our garden where, when it’s fully grown at about 4-5 m, it will shelter the rest of the garden from the prevailing westerly winds. These dark red plum shaped blooms look quite exotic but this is a lime hating tree that will withstand all but the most severe winters.
Not far away but in a much more shaded situation I have the Chilean Fire Free shrieking out for attention! This semi evergreen tree is from right down south and from Tierra del Fuego and for this reason it can take some cold and inhospitable weather! At the moment it is covered with few leaves but plenty of bright orange-red blooms that give this tree its common name. It sure looks as if it is on fire at this time of the year! This is a plant that is hard to propagate and as a consequence hard to find. Like the Crinodendron, it needs soil without free lime in it and therefore below pH 6.5. I have to admit that here I’ve cheated a bit since every split bale of moss peat – when we used to sell it at Cleeve Nursery – and broken bag of Ericaceous compost has not been wasted but has been tipped into this border to make the soil acid and therefore suitable for these plants.
Now it strikes me that a remarkable number of these and other Chilean plants bloom at the same time but not quite all. A large upright growing Eucryphia Nymansay also enjoys this peaty border but waits until August and September to bloom. Once more this is a small upright growing evergreen tree and useful for screening but when in bloom it is covered with honey bees and clearly a favourite of theirs too.
Enjoying the warmth of a west facing wall and in full sun I have a scrambling potato. This doesn’t produce any tasty tubers that I can bake, mash or roast! But the connection with potato is unmistakable when you look closely at the yellow centre slate-blue blooms. These are produced prolifically now and I have the improved selection called Solanum crispum Glasnevin.
Not far from this unusual climber but planted on the north facing side of another wall I have an Azara bush. This is Azara has the most delightful scent which some say reminds them of vanilla, others cloves and still more chocolate! Whatever it is those fluffy mustard yellow blooms sure put on a show now!
Of course all these Chilean plants are easy enough to grow provided that you choose the right micro-climate in your garden but to find a plant to grow in the first place may present a greater challenge. Don’t expect these to be in your local garden centre or DIY store, these are plants that you may just chance upon when visiting any of those gardens that throw open their gates for charity in the next few weeks!
Are you growing any plants from South America in your garden?
Are any of these from Chile?
Happy [plant] hunting!