Plant Profile: Asarina scandens

As the heatwave drags on, my evenings are consumed by watering the garden. Already short, their length is reducing daily so that I am often found watering in the dark, a torch in one hand and a hose in the other. Normally there’s a glass of wine not far away to keep me going. All the time spent irrigating has impacted on three things – blogging, cleaning and sleeping. I am not doing enough of any of them and cleaning the house has ceased entirely. One cannot revive a dead plant, but one can vacuum up fluff any time: that’s the way I look at it anyway. Thank you for bearing with me whilst I am posting less frequently.

In the garden I am making last minute preparations for opening, layering in as much interest as I can and being more experimental than ever. Spurred on by the sustained heat I’ve had tremendous fun playing with true exotics such as tillandsias, bromeliads and anthuriums. These may not be so successful in cooler summers so I am making the most of the opportunity. I hope returning visitors will enjoy seeing something new this year. I never regard my garden as finished, particularly in the summer when plants can pass their peak relatively quickly. I go to my local garden centre every weekend and snap up plants as they are delivered from the nursery. Not only does this mean I get the pick of the crop, but the plants are fresh as a daisy too.

Last weekend I was delighted to pick up a hanging pot filled with a loose cloud of Asarina scandens (recently renamed Maurandya scandens), commonly known as the snapdragon vine. I did not need it at all, but I could not resist the waterfalls of violet flowers cascading from top to bottom. Annual climbers are great fun to grow because they are generally unfussy and eager to get going – Cobaea scandens (cup and saucer vine), Ipomoea lobata (Spanish flag) and Rhodochiton atrosanguineus (purple bell vine) are among my favourites and I grow them every year. They are best started from seed since bought plants tend to become tangled before you can get your hands on them. Annual climbers really come into their own later in the season when they can be used to scramble over plants which are past their best. All those listed have a hint of the exotic about them, which is perfect for my garden.

Having disappeared into obscurity, Asarina scandens is becoming popular again, with new varieties and seed strains appearing on the market. Sarah Raven sells a variety called ‘Violet’ and another named ‘Mystic Rose’. Thompson and Morgan’s ‘Jewel Mix’ will reward the grower with a mixture of indigo, purple, pinks and white blooms. Anyone craving a white-only strain might try Chiltern Seeds’ ‘Snowwhite’. Asarina scandens is a climber that will make its way up or along almost anything, as well as trailing effectively from a tall pot or hanging basket. The vine’s dainty foliage is perfect for smaller gardens or as a contrast to bigger leaves. Flowers are produced incessantly from an early stage in the plant’s development and will not stop until the first frosts. Asarina scandens is not frost-hardy so relocate to a conservatory, greenhouse or sunny window as winter approaches, or simply start again with fresh seed the next year.

Other than disliking root disturbance Asarina scandens places very few demands on the gardener other than needing regular watering. I’ve hung mine from an disused outdoor light fitting close to the front door, from where it will tumble down as well as scrambling through adjacent climbers. It would be dramatic grown through a wigwam of sticks or a conical support alongside a yellow-flowered Thunbergia alata (black-eyed Susan) or cascading over the edge of a lead planter with an orange fuchsia such as ‘Gartenmeister Bonstedt’ AGM. My plant catches some morning and midday sun, but otherwise enjoys bright shade.

Whilst it’s a little too late to start Asarina scandens from seed now (unless you are intending to grow it indoors through the winter) it’s well worth adding a pack of seed to your spring order. Your friends will thank you heartily for sharing any spares with them. TFG.