Cobaea scandens flower and fruit.
GARDENING IT IS now almost de rigueur in many gardens to have roses at Christmas time and beyond but the mildness, until the sprinkling of the white stuff a few days ago, had several unexpected bloomers.
At a time when my first wild primroses were showing, Ian Campbell e-mailed me with another example of the seasons being out of kilter.
"This is bordering on the bizarre," he said.
He sent me a photo of the flower of a cup and saucer plant (cobaea scandens), which he assured me he took on the morning of January 14 in his Gurnard garden.
A second image shows more flowers in formation and that the plant is actually fruiting too.
"Although cobaea scandens is a perennial in its natural habitat, it is normally grown here as an annual in temperate Europe.
"It will take temperatures down to 0C for short periods but I have never known one survive the winter months as vigorously as this one," Ian said.
Cobaea scandens is sometimes called cathedral bell — a vigorous vine, which is a native of tropical America, where it grows as a strong woody perennial.
Over here it is best grown in large pots for standing outdoors in summer, and will behave as a perennial if kept indoors in winter at about 7C (45F). It is best kept in a container.
The RHS said in a very mild winter plants may survive and remain virtually evergreen but they are usually grown as annuals on a wall, fence or pergola.
Plants have a tropical appearance, with lush foliage and 8cm (3in) flowers with prominent stamens.
Once fully open, they are sweetly fragrant.