Almost a year ago to the day I wrote a post on this blog about a couple of plants in Lady Churchill’s Rose Garden here at Chartwell that were really wowing our visitors. The plants in question were the Hydrangea aspera ‘Villosa Group’ looking all pretty in purple against one wall and the towering Eucryphia x nymansensis ‘Nymansay’ covered in white blooms in the opposite corner, and you can read that very blog post by clicking here. Well, twelve months on I’m pleased to report that both those plants are looking fantastic again but this year they are also joined by another Rose Garden superstar.
Campsis x tagliabuana ‘Mme Galen’ is a vigorous, deciduous, woody-stemmed climber that flowers in late Summer and into early Autumn. Also known as the Trumpet Vine or Trumpet Creeper, these plants love full sun which is why ours is planted against the south-facing wall of the Rose Garden. It isn’t picky about what type of soil it dips its feet into and although it is officially H4 Hardy (ie can tolerate an average Winter) ours has thrived through all of the harsh Winter weather we’ve experienced here in Kent over the last four years, although this may be due to the sheltered nature of their site. In any case ‘Mme Galen’ is the toughest selection currently available.
Although Campsis climbers are self-clinging, using their aerial roots to attach themselves to a support system, they are often best tied in to wires when they reach the size that ours is. The pruning of established plants involves cutting side-shoots to within two or three buds of the main stem but renovating an old plant can be done by cutting stems back to within 30cm of the base. Both forms of attack should be carried out in Winter when the plant is dormant. As these climbing beauties are so vigorous and strong, they can also be propagated very easily in any number of ways including from seed, layering, cuttings and division of rooted suckers!
C. x tagliabuana ‘Mme Galen’ is a mid-19th century hybrid between Campsis radicans (American Trumpet Vine) and Campsis grandiflora (Chinese Trumpet Vine). It has the large flower size of Campsis grandiflora and the hardiness of Campsis radicans. The Genus of Campsis comes from the greek ‘kampsis’ meaning bending or curved, referring to the curved stamens of the flowers. The species name tagliabuana commemorates the 19th century Italian nurserymen, Alberto and Carlo Tagliabue at whose nursery the Italian botanist Roberto de Visiani (1800-1878) created the hybrid. I have not been able to find out who ‘Madame Galen’ herself is, so if anyone out there can help, please let us know!
The flowers are said to be very attractive to hummingbirds but here at Chartwell we mostly see bees buzzing in and out of the conical blooms! The blooms are followed by long, bean-like seed pods which split open when ripe releasing numerous 2-winged seeds for dispersal by the wind. A single plant can take up to ten years to reach maturity where it can get to the heady heights of 10m tall and 4m wide so make sure you plant it somewhere with enough space to do it justice. If you don’t want to grow your own however, just come along to Chartwell soon and have a peak at ours…