Flowering this week: Lapageria alba

The perfect white waxy bells of Lapageria alba

The perfect white waxy bells of Lapageria alba

The lapageria is commonly known as the Chilean bellflower and is the national flower for that country where it is called copihue. In the wild, reddish pink is the dominant colour though there are pure white forms, pretty pale pink forms and apparently even picotees in cultivation. The white form, Lapageria alba, is particularly prized in this country, but rare because it does not set seed to itself. You need two different clones to get viable seed. In fact all lapagerias are fairly hard to source these days because they are not an easy nursery crop. Young plants can sulk and do nothing at all for several years. They will then send out a strong fresh tendril and some wayward snail will choose that very time to pass by and eat off the long awaited fresh growth. If you see plants offered for sale, don’t set your heart on a particular colour – just take what is available.

They are evergreen climbers which, like most climbers, appreciate a cool position for their roots and their heads into the light. Being forest dwellers, they will take colder temperatures but not frost. Once established, they are enormously satisfying because they are almost never without flowers. And the flowers are beautifully simple waxy bells, reasonably long lived and apparently good for floral art. We have some huge granddaddy vines in red, white and soft pink which have been growing in the cold, narrow back border of our house for several decades where they gently flower on and on and on.

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