The lovely Canary creeper

May 18th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Tropaeolum canariense (canary creeper)A climbing nasturtium can be a bit of a thug. Vigorous growth, large leaves… A climbing nasturtium can smother even the most robust of plants. The closely related canary creeper, Tropaeolum canariense, on the other hand, is a climbing annual that’s altogether more acceptable – more delicate – in its habits.

Like clematis, it clings to its supports by twining its leaf stalks around anything it meets, but its leaves are small, prettily divided and never smother. Its flowers are bright, delicate, beautifully shaped in bright butter yellow with a delightful patterning of red spots on the petals. It produces a long succession of flowers all summer. It’s very pretty, and repays a close look. Can we agree that it’s a lovely plant? But how to use it?

I’m sowing seeds now, three seeds in 9cm pots, and when they’re up and growing I’ll be planting them at the base of my outdoor tomatoes. And at the base of climbing outdoor cucumbers. And on the sunny side of established shrubs such as sarcococcas and daphnes. And under the delphiniums so that when the delph flowers are long gone, there’ll be canary coloured flowers snaking over the foliage. And amongst my hardy chrysanthemums, to twine over the dull foliage before the flowers come.

As I mentioned, sow three of those big fat seeds in 9cm pots. Do it today. Place the pots on an indoor windowsill or in a cold greenhouse (set mousetraps!) for the seeds to germinate and, when the windowsill plants start through, move them to a sunny sheltered place outside to develop.

When the roots emerge at the base of the pots, plant them out. As the plants grow, they may need guiding in the direction of the supports that I hope you’ve provided to help them get going. Then sit back and enjoy the show.

* The Chelsea Flower Show starts on Tuesday, but I’ll be there getting an early look at how things are coming together from Saturday morning and will be posting here every day for week starting on Sunday. So please check back here every day.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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