September 4, 2006

Clerodendron bungeii

Clerodendron bungei

Fast growing tropical plants with magnificent late summer displays like this Clerodendron bungei, were at one time, only found only in botanic gardens, or private estate conservatory's with knowledgable staffs. Today, they are becoming readily available and can either be mail ordered or found at progressive fine garden centers. Adventurous home gardeners can find these alternatives to mums and hydrangeas with a little effort. A great way is to simply pay attention the next time you visit a botanic garden, and note what they are planting in containers for seasonal display. Popular publications like gardening magazines rarely show more unusual specimins since editors prefer to deliver content that not only is easlily available, but which is somewhat familiar. Trying something that is not only new to you, but new to anyone that you know, takes a leap of faith.
Still, many of these 'temperennials', a term coined by Dan Hinkley of the landmark yet now closed Heronswood Nursery, are affordable enought to be temporary yet perennial in more tropical areas. In the north, they can be allowed to grow fast all summer, and then freeze. The gardener simply needs to replace them in the spring by either taking cuttings in the fall and carrying them over indoors or buying new ones which sometimes is just easier, and better.

Regardless, if you what something different, and cool, this are the 'it'plants. They are all rage right now for home gardenering in the know. They can be found at the trediest of garden centers. Other disposable tropical annuals like Brugmansia, tropical salvia and many other tropical plants can be grown successfully in one season, with autumn as the season where they really strut thier stuff. Basically, they are treated as annuals, but unlike most annuals, these tropical plants deliver a punch that often is not seen in the late summer. Take many of the Clerodendron clan, for example.

Purchased as rooted cuttings in April, this Clerodendron bungei, a native of China and the Himalayas, starts off as nothing specia, a four inch cutting. Three cuttings were planted in a ten gallon pot, but by June, they grew quickly to about two feet tall. The growing point was pinched out, and one the hot and humid summer weather hit in July, the plants exploded into growth.

This C. bungei presents a new perspective to the late summer terrace.

Many tropical non-vining Clerodendron species that are more shrub-like in habit can successfully be grown in a single summer cycle, with the reward being spectacular hydrangea-like heads like these that are surprisingly fragrant and attract butterflies as well.

I will cut this plant back and move it back into the greenhouse, for the winter, since it is frost tender. There, is will send up new growth in late winter, where cuttings will be taken to start the cycle over again.

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