Plant Collector: Tecomanthe venusta

The pink bells of Tecomanthe venusta

The pink bells of Tecomanthe venusta

We are so excited by our Tecomanthe venusta in bloom. That is because it is tropical but we are not so it doesn’t often flower for us. And I have to admit that there are only a few clusters of these pink flowers in evidence. A garden visitor once told us there was a specimen at the entry to Whangarei Gardens’ glasshouse which flowers magnificently. We have not seen it but it would figure that it is happier further north because it originates in New Guinea and is the most cold-sensitive member of the tecomanthe family, all evergreen climbers in the bignoniaceae group.

The tecomanthe family is not large and some readers will know our own T. speciosa – a tender but rampant climber which was found in the wild as a single, surviving specimen on Three Kings Islands. It needs a frost free position which rules it out for most inland locations and it needs a bit of training and management if you want to see the lovely creamy trumpet flowers. It will shoot up the highest tree available and flower only at the very top if left to its own devices, but if you train it along a horizontal support, it can be encouraged to flower along its length.

Back to T.venusta. We grow it under the cover of a deep verandah with opaque roofing. When it does decide to flower, it puts out clusters from its bare vines, which is very obliging because they are so obvious. Most plants set flowers on either new growth or last season’s growth but venusta appears to be quite happy to do it on gnarly old growth. We get a far more spectacular display in spring from the species we have as T. montana, also from New Guinea, which is grown in the same conditions but there is a delicious unpredictability to venusta.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

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