Gardening: Get your winter creepers growing
NO MATTER where you live in Central Queensland, there are a couple of spectacular flowering creepers that are just starting to become noticeable.
But these creepers have also been noticed by some of the US servicemen and women currently in Rockhampton for the Talisman Sabre joint military exercises at Shoalwater Bay.
A few years ago during one of the joint military exercises at Shoalwater Bay, I received a very unusual phone call from a US serviceman about a number of flowering plants seen around Rockhampton.
He had spent a good deal of his life in San Diego, where a couple of our most spectacular flowering creepers are also used to brighten the winter garden.
San Diego has a very similar climate to Rockhampton and most of the plants grown there are the same as here. In fact, about a quarter of plant species found in San Diego nurseries are Australian native plants.
The two creepers that had caught his eye in Rockhampton were the prince's vine and the flame vine, as he called them.
These creepers are a favourite to San Diego's children as they attract the beautiful little hummingbirds to the garden. He told me that the number one requirement for a hummingbird garden is moving water, then rich nectar plants like the prince's vine or the flame vine, and finally a viewing spot to watch these little birds hover and dart from flower to flower sipping nectar.
He told me the classic hummingbird flowers are trumpet-shaped blossoms, as they have long tongues that can easily reach nectar that is too deep for other animals to reach.
The prince's vine, or ipomoea horsfalliae, is sold in local nurseries under the same name but most gardeners would know it by the common name of the cardinal creeper.
The flame vine is sold as pyrostegia venusta in San Diego, but here in Queensland it is known as pyrostegia ignea, or the golden trumpet vine.
The dense lush tropical foliage of the ipomoea forms a visible contrast to the creeper's trumpet flowers. This winter bloomer will become submerged in ruby red to magenta-violet flowers.
This native to Jamaica in the western Caribbean requires a protected, well-drained position.
The ipomoea has proven to tolerate small periods of dry weather but it will suffer in frosty conditions.
Ipomoea horsfalliae was introduced to the US by the Hawaiian prince Prince Kuhio, and that is why the common name for it in the US is the prince's vine.
In its natural environment the ipomoea needs the hummingbirds to fertilise the seeds, and this poses a problem here in Central Queensland. All ipomoea horsfalliae grown here are propagated by cuttings.
Also making a stunning display at the moment is the pyrostegia ignea.
It is one of the fastest-growing evergreen vines available to local gardeners and yet is far more manageable than many other slower growing creepers available in the local nurseries.
With spectacular clusters of orange tubular flowers and its dense tropical green foliage, the pyrostegia is perfect to add colour to a dull winter garden.
The pyrostegia is a native of southern Brazil, northern Argentina and Paraguay, and can be cultivated in most soil types, from heavy clays to sandy loam. It requires minimal watering and can be correctly described as one of the better waterwise choices available. I would always recommend pruning after flowering, as this will encourage more branching and even more flowers next year.
If you are growing this plant in a particularly frosty area you will need to protect it, for example by positioning the plant along a protected fence area or wall.
--- Gardening, Neil Fisher