Ionce had a friend in Africa (sounds a bit Karen Blixen), who grew up for some of her time there in Mombasa on the coast of Kenya and the capital Nairobi.
After a week at school in Nairobi she travelled the long train journey to be with her gran in Mombasa for the occasional weekend and school holidays.
When I asked what it was most she remembered of or liked about her time in Kenya, her immediate answer was frangipani. As if I had to ask.
Her gran lived on the beach and kept her territorials as organic as she could as fencing was not one of her great landscape enjoyments. But she also had a need to keep out the odd wandering beast or two. Instead of a fence facing the sea she planted rows of frangipani.
As a testimony to her character and the need to be resourceful, useful and interesting, she planted long 1.5m sticks of all colours and hues of the plant. Not straight up and down, but on an angle of about 45 degrees.
Each was placed almost a metre apart to form an X. This went on with a row in front of the last until she had a hedge of frangipani sticks, that would eventually fill up with leaves, and later, plenty of flower. The closeness of the planting also helped keep out some animals.
The plants seldom needed water once they were up and running, and hardly ever saw a bag of fertiliser. The sand was the catch. Maybe the sea air that was laden with salt might have had some influence also. The flowers and perfume were lodged into the olfactory mechanism in the brain, that years later, whenever she got a whiff of a frangipani she immediately saw her gran’s house by the sea.
There are a couple of things at play here and one is the effect of first experiences of smell as a therapy and its memory trigger. The other is that frangipani is like a garden pet that gives all, in return except for a little love.
The evergreen frangipani (often called Singapore White) is our easiest to grow and has some resistance to the scourge of rust. There are recent crosses between the hammerhead frangipani and the evergreen that are almost rust resistant. It’s the older gnarled F.rubra varieties that are badly affected by rust.
Apart from vigilant management of rust (removing and cleaning up leaves, spraying tips with chilli spray in the dry etc.), they say a 500mm spray bottle of water with a couple of Asprin can help. That is often a big call for a large tree. Organic fertiliser such as blood and bone around the drip line at least twice a year often helps nourish the tree and build its resistance to rust invasion.
The ‘X’ planted hedge of frangipani is an oldie but goodie or something that is old is new again and worth a try if you are looking to do something a bit different.