This year the clear best new plant of the year winner is something we’d never even heard of before. At my favorite local garden center, Fair Acres Farms in Sussex County, NJ , there are always interesting and tempting unfamiliar plants amid the wonderful collection of more recognizable varieties. As the owner, Richard Kaweske, says, “If I can’t try something totally new every year, what’s the point of gardening!” He had brought in plants of Podranea ricasoliana ‘Pink Delight’ (aka Pandorea*) (left, click to enlarge) which he’d never seen or grown before either, but had heard great reports of the big pink trumpet-like flowers. So I bought one. A bargain at about $8. That was early May.
It was about 8in/20cm high at the time, and I planted it in an old cement urn in mostly sun, not realizing that this tropical South African plant was actually a tall, vigorous, rambling shrubby vine with strong long woody stems that arch all over the place. Despite its tight pot (or maybe because of it; Podranea apparently does best well-drained, which the cement planter definitely was), it immediately began to romp away, with beautiful glossy green compound foliage on gracefully open weeping branches. By early June the first of the spectacular candy-pink 3.5in/9cm flowers appeared, and I was hooked for life.
The papery flower buds appear at the very ends of the branches, and stay in bud a long time before the big pink trumpets start opening, which they do sequentially, then stay in bloom an even longer time. They’re supposed to be fragrant, but I never did discern any scent. Didn’t matter in the least.
Each of our branches eventually reached 10ft (3m) or so, and arched all over another wonderful vine, the variegated Ampelopsis brevipedunculata var. maximowiczii 'Elegans' (below, click to enlarge).
Flower color deepens as the weather gets colder. We left it outside until the temperatures dropped to about 36F/2C, which it tolerated fine, flowers and all, then dug it out of the planter, stuck it in a bigger plastic pot and brought it inside to drape all over the hot tub solarium. It’s still solidly in bloom, and didn’t seem to mind all the ruckus. Advice says to prune it back hard after flowering. Next year I think I’ll train it up a trellis against the house.
* In a strange twist, this plant has been known by two names - one of which is an anagram of the other: Podranea (the correct name) and Pandorea.
You can find more details of this fine plant on the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden website.
You can order Podranea ricasoliana ‘Pink Delight’ in North America from Stokes Tropicals.
You can order Podranea ricasoliana ‘Pink Delight’ in Britain from these Royal Horticultural Society Plant Finder nurseries.