Monday 20 October 2014

The Quirky Life of Cobaea Scandens

Goodness me it seems an age since I last wrote a blog and I have missed it.

This blog post is dedicated to the annual climber Cobaea Scandens (also known as the Cup and Saucer Plant, Mexican Ivy or Cathedral Bells).  I love watching the quirky growing habit of this plant through the season, from sowing the flat seeds to seeing the hollow ‘capsules’ turn into flowers that then change colour and finally form their substantial seedpods.

In most parts of the UK the cup and saucer vine behaves as an annual climber. Only this year, on a south facing wall, it has behaved like a perennial and overwintered in the mild winter of 2013/2014 and now, at the end of October, it is still going strong, spreading every which way along the old framework of the glasshouse.  This year I have had a little insight into why New Zealand has listed Cobaea Scandens under the 'National Pest Plant Accord' although for me, even though it has grown so prolifically outdoors this year, it is still manageable and easy to restrain and a total joy to have in the garden, flowering its little heart out since April! So as an ode to the cup and saucer vine here are a few pictures to share from 2014.

From such humble beginnings.  The spindly stems that I nearly cut back in January...

... to this beautiful monster!

The flower stages.
The young green, furry and veiny stage.
Maturing to my personal favourite stage, the pinky/blue. Perfect landing strips included!
Then finally the last deep purple stage.
Then the seedpods start to grow and ripen!

Stripped back to reveal seeds.

The seed 'fins' are already well defined at this stage.

Once the seedpod matures the 'collars' are left on the stem leaving something that seems to be masquerading as a hellebore?

Another fascination for me is the gorgeous coiled, metallic coloured tentrils.

When gathered together they look like intricate wirework.

Let's see if Mother Nature let's you overwinter again!