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.

NZ Gardener - - Contents - POR­TRAIT: EMMA BASS

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!

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