Tag Archives: summer flowering shrubs

Plant collector – Tecoma stans (with an aside on a hot week)

Tecoma stans

How pretty is the yellow tecoma? It must be having a particularly good flowering season because I have never taken much notice of it before though Mark tells me it has bloomed previously. Maybe it is that it is visible from the swimming pool and I have spent a bit of time floating around on the water on my air mattress in this week’s heat.

As an aside, I can not complain to our children about the heat. We have had temperatures in the late twenties (Celsius) all week and NZ has been ‘in the grip of a heatwave’ with temperatures in the early 30s. Our children are currently living in Australia in a heatwave that has seen temperatures well into mid 40s. Sydney daughter has previously commented that the heat only really becomes a big issue when the air temperature is higher than body temperature – above 37 degrees. So, there is the voice of experience. Canberra daughter declared yesterday that our grandson would not be going swimming that day because it was a *cool* day of *only* 26 degrees. We start wilting much above 26 degrees, but let it be known that we have high humidity and particularly bright sunlight which makes moderate temperatures seem much hotter. At least that is our story and we are sticking to it. I have been swimming (or floating in a leisurely fashion) at least three times a day.

Back to the tecoma. It is a plant from south and central America in tropical to sub-tropical areas. We are more warm-temperate than sub-tropical – maybe sub-sub-tropical – but sufficiently frost-free and well drained for it to grow and bloom here. It forms a large shrub to about two metres, somewhat rangy in appearance but I am sure it could be pruned to keep it tidier. Apparently it can be grown as a hedge so it must respond to pruning. The flowers are the giveaway that it is a member of the bignoniacae family – trumpet flowers. It attracts bees and butterflies, as I have observed, but has so far failed to attract any hummingbirds on account of the absence of such feathered delights in this country. It is scented, though not powerfully so.

We only grow it for the flowers and I will start to take note of how long it blooms because it can flower all year round in warm climates. Mind you, it is also becoming a pest weed in parts of Australia and Kenya, I read.

Should Armageddon come, Tecoma stans has some useful properties. Not only is the wood good (though you would need many more plants than our one to start harvesting wood), it has many medicinal properties capable, it is said, of treating diabetes, stomach pains, water retention, syphilis and intestinal worms! I just hope that, in the event of Armageddon, we get to keep the internet. It is rather too easy to get traditional remedies wrong in inexperienced hands. 

Plant Collector: Calliandra, probably eriophylla

Calliandra (probably eriophylla) - like a strawberry pink starburst

Calliandra (probably eriophylla) – like a strawberry pink starburst

Oh my but the calliandra has been putting on a wonderful impersonation of candy floss (fairy floss) in recent weeks. What is more, this is its second flowering for the season. We are impressed. This plant is in the never-never land of our former nursery area where it has survived on complete and utter neglect, having rooted through from its pot. It is beyond transplanting out to the garden but fortunately we have a few grown from cutting which we will be rushing out to prime spots after this summer’s performance. We just don’t have too many areas in the garden which are hot, dry, desert-like even, frost-free and bearing much resemblance to its homelands of Arizona, Texas and Mexico.

If we are right and it is C. eriophylla, its common name is Fairy Duster, though it is sometimes referred to Mock Mesquite. The flowers are clusters of stamens almost like starbursts. Calliandras are members of the legume family (peas, please) which is evident when you look at the fine, leguminous foliage. They are apparently most attractive to humming birds which is not a lot of help to us here, though we wouldn’t mind some exotic humming birds added to our list of introduced species. Some calliandras are herbaceous (leafy, clumping plants) but this is one of the woody shrub types. It is probably our long, hot, dry season this year which has seen it flower so very well in both spring and again in summer.

First published in the , and reprinted here with their permission.