Margaret Rose with her fantastic Angel's Trumpet in her Ryde garden.
GARDENING THERE are a pair of brilliant bloomers just around the corner from each other in Ryde.
One is tucked away in a courtyard garden, but the other is in the neatest, nicest, front patch in the centre of town.
Just over half-way up George Street, on the right, is Phyllis Aitchison’s delightful house and, in pride of place in her front garden, her 16ft swaying sunflowers.
Now, sunflowers commonly attain such lofty proportions but Phyllis’s are worth a look because they are part of her lovely front garden. Not only is it meticulously neat and traditional but it has scent and colour even at this, largely, dour time of year.
Phyllis is 95 years old now and she owes her magnificent sunflowers to her gardener Pauline Cooper, who grew them from seed.
There’s all sorts of oases tucked away all over the place — one of which is Margaret Rose’s.
Margaret, too, lives in the centre of Ryde, and her courtyard is at the back end of Lind Street, facing south.
Now Margaret is blessed with an Angel’s Trumpet which has been bloomin’ magnificent.
And so impressed has she been with its repeat flowering that she counted the trumpets this year and is up to over 100 and still going!
Margaret’s is a brugmansia hybrid, closely related to, and often confused with, datura.
Both are perennial, but, datura, especially, is commonly grown as an annual. Both do not like the cold.
That, and the shape of the flowers, are the similarities between the two. The differences are that datura is a compact plant with largely bluey-white trumpet flowers while brugmansia can be a medium to pretty large, semi-woody, shrub.
It can be readily pruned, but, beware, like its cousin, the toxic sap can cause a skin reaction — so wear gloves.
Margaret can’t bring her plant indoors because she has nowhere to put it in her flat, but, despite some very cold snaps in the past two winters, hers has survived to give her great pleasure.
I’ve featured datura and brugmansia before but it’s a family well worth re-visiting because they are such attractive, trouble-free plants, now available in ever-greater variety.
Common datura is blue-tinged white because of its genetic "roots" as a member of the nightshade family.
Angel’s Trumpet, a name it shares with its bigger cousin, Devil’s Trumpet, Horn of Plenty and Jimsonweed are among its names, and, as gardeners will know, it is a poisonous hallucinogenic plant.
At best, if you get sap on your skin it will cause a reaction; at worst, especially if the seeds are eaten, medical attention should be sought.
Spiky heads hold the seeds which will, in all but the hybrid varieties appear all over the shop if you let them.
Common datura has been used by native American Indians for its hallucinogenic properties and by herbalists for the treatment of epilepsy and asthma. The tricky part is that a medicinal dose is very close to a powerfully hypnotic, and possibly fatal, one.
Hence its name Locoweed, for its effect on unsuspecting bovines.
On to brugmansia, a shrub of greater variety.
They range from Sanguinea which is yellow at its base, ranging to red at its trumpet to the canary yellow Double Golden.
Sanguinea, by the way, is one worth ordering early as a plant because it frequently sells out and is usually despatched between February and June.
Specimens now range from the virginal white, cream and green through to the double blackcurrant with shades of lilac and mauve to that with evening fragrance with blue-green foliage.
Both datura and brugmansia like full sun and rich, moist, soil and can easily be grown from seed.
These should be sown with a light compost covering in a propagator about three months before planting outside, so February and March are ideal months because the plants can go outside in spring when the risk of frost has passed.