October 16, 2018

Caroline’s Garden Diaries 20.5.2014: Getting to grips

I first grew the cup-and-saucer plant, called Cobea, from seed given away in a magazine – had never heard of it before, but thought I’d give it a go – and what a discovery, it’s amazing! The flowers are quite extraordinary, starting with the huge sculptural buds, pink with marked green veins that turn into the “saucer”, from which a green “cup” then pushes out, becoming purple as it does so. It’s gorgeous.

That was in 2009. Despite its gorgeousness, I didn’t repeat the experiment until this year when I wanted something to replace a failed clematis. Bought seed this time, and they’re away. Cobea is a climber and my goodness, it’s ambitious, reaching for the sky. As soon as it has its first two proper leaves, the tendrils start to unfurl and in a day or two, they’re several inches long and climbing up whatever stands close to it – including a human finger if you look at it for more than a few seconds.

Cobea’s method of climbing is interesting; the tendrils don’t grip by curling round a support as sweet pea, and it doesn’t twine its stem round as a bean might. Its long tendrils are very fine and many-branched, each being equipped with tiny hooks; the tendril waves around until it touches something, which the hooks then grasp, the tendril rapidly shortens and hauls the plant upwards. I know about this because I’ve been watching it through a hand-lens – yes, very nerdy but only copying Darwin who did this sort of thing in his garden. And as he knew, when you look closely at nature, it’s turns out to be quite sinister. Bad news for the clematis that meanwhile has regrown and is politely twining round its obelisk.

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