Flowering this week: Dombeya burgessiae

Dombeya burgessiae is more autumn flowering in its homelands but here it is blooming in mid winter

Dombeya burgessiae is more autumn flowering in its homelands but here it is blooming in mid winter

In the mid winter world of June, it is a little difficult to find flowering shrubs in the garden which are not camellias. Mind you, some parts of the gardening world don’t expect any foliage, let alone flowers, in their gardens in winter so we mustn’t complain. But our dombeya is looking very fetching this week. It has full heads of soft pink bells, each with a deep pink starburst in the centre and pure white stamens along with lovely velvety foliage. Apparently the common name for D. burgessiae is the pink wild pear but as we have never seen any fruit or seed pod that resembles a pear, wild or otherwise, this is a slight mystery to us. There are quite few different dombeyas, mostly from Madagascar, but not that many different ones in cultivation. Burgessiae occurs naturally in the Natal area up through Tanzania and is a plant for forest margins, much favoured as a food crop by black rhinos but we have been unable to test this claim in our garden with rhinos, black, white or any other colour.

The origin gives a clue: this genus is generally used to hotter, drier conditions and not suited to frost. We grow our pink dombeya in reasonably open conditions on a warm hillside but the hedge behind gives it some protection. Where frosts are heavier than a few degrees, it would need to be a conservatory plant. While not common in this country, the dombeya is easy enough to strike from cutting for the keen home gardener if you can find somebody with a plant.