Xanthe White talks plants
Ever the extrovert and not one to keep opinions to itself, the flame vine shares its style philosophy with Xanthe White.
Style tips from a flame vine
Q I’ve long envied your outrageous orange blooms that arrive when the rest of the garden has been looking dull and lifeless over the winter months. There is nothing polite about the sunset blossoms that cover you head to toe like an opera singer in a room of black suits.
A Good taste has a lot to answer for. I think you New Zealanders are far too afraid to express your personality. We are from the gardens of South America where if you tried to stay in a line of green and white or polite orderly behaviour, you would quickly become swamped in an orchestra of life. No, we look like we want to live. Be seen or be gone. Life without passion is no life at all…
Well, yes orange is a rather unpopular colour on the social set. I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked for an orange garden! A
But why not?! What is wrong with orange? It is the colour of the sun as it sets and rises, the warmth of a fire at night, the colour of citrus in winter… so complementary set amongst the deep glossy green leaves. Happiness, what is there to be afraid of, all this black you wear all the time – it will make you sad and miserable. But I think maybe you don’t like orange because it is loud perhaps? It says hello, good morning and you Kiwis are so afraid of being noticed. Perhaps I’m being too loud for you now?
Q Well no, it‘s lovely. I’m just not sure I would look as good as you in it.
A This is your mind holding you back. You can be as bright as you let yourself. Promise me you’ll try it!
OK, it’s true we can be demure and shy, but you know we have to maintain our gardens; watch they don’t run away on us.
A Sure, sure, I can respect this. You are worried that we are loud and competitive and we will outshine you.
Q Well yes, climbers can be a little uncontrollable at times…
A Sure we can, we reach to the top. We have aspirations to see the sun and enjoy life but here in your lovely country, we cannot seed and end up in other places as our pollinator is the hummingbird – and you have no such bird or like-minded type, so our life is limited. Surely that allows us to live and do as we please? And we are not so like a convolvulus that winds its way amongst the roots of other plants so that it becomes embedded in your soil...
It’s certainly a solid argument in your favour and that you bring colour loudly when our gardens are at their most demure.
A Exactly. And for those gardeners who like to keep the tone of their gardens maybe more discreet, well if nothing else is flowering you don’t need to worry, “Does the orange clash with my pink border or does it need some purples to make it more outrageous?” You can just be a bit exciting for a little while, then be more conservative in your way as the season becomes more colourful.
Okay, I’m going to let you in my garden and see how it goes. Perhaps by the end of summer my whole garden will have shifted to orange tones. Perhaps it’s my one chance to make that orange garden. I can imagine winter aloes perhaps, for the tuis.¯ Perhaps some purples too, echium and salvias, catmint and lavender…
A I know too you always like plants that are useful. Well, some people in South America use our leaves as a medicine.
Q So are you hard to grow?
A As I said, I like sun, so let me be warm. My feet are not fussy. I can even hold my flowers with some wind. You can train me along, up and over. I’m open minded and free-willed.
Q Well let’s see where we end up together then!