Herald the Trumpets

Cheery color of Madame Galen gives a lift to the summer.

There are great ways you can put Madame Galen trumpetvines (Campsis x tagliabuana ‘Madame Galen’) to work in your gardens. Use them to soften expanses of fence. Use them to cover patio arbors and pergolas. They’ll provide great summer shade and never question why they’re up there. They love Texas sun.

Madame Galen hangs gracefully.

All trumpetvines ask is steady support. These babies get big. And heavy. Their stems, leaves and flowers have caused many an old and tired wooden fence to lean and finally tumble. And don’t put them above concrete, brick or stone surfaces that could be stained by their succulent flowers as they fall.

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Hummingbirds love trumpetvines (also known more formally as “trumpetcreepers”). Those brightly colored, long, tubular flowers are prime targets for the birds’ activities, so that alone could be your reason to include them in your own garden plantings.

These plants need sun. Full, hot, and intense summer sun. If you try to grow them in shade, you’ll get nothing but leaves. They’re at home in arid southwestern landscapes where summer temperatures regularly exceed 100 degrees.

They do best where they get only minimal nitrogen, so it’s usually best not to plant them where you’ll be maintaining turf and groundcover beds with high levels of nitrogen. But they do appreciate moisture. They bloom on new growth, and regular watering helps promote that.

Yellow-flowering variety ‘Flava’ is an alternative. (The orange trumpetvine in the background is the invasive wild type that you want to avoid.) Click image for larger view.

Avoid the native trumpetvine (Campsis radicans). While it, too, bears the handsome, bright orange flowers all summer, the plants themselves are extremely invasive. Root sprouts will pop up like gophers, here, there and everywhere. You’ll soon learn to hate it, and the neighbors won’t be too happy with you, either. Stick with Madame Galen and the other improved selections and you’ll avoid a lot of apologies and hand-digging later. Plus, Madame Galen’s flowers are twice as large as those of the wild form.

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Most Madame Galen trumpetvines are sold in 5-gallon pots, most commonly in summer. They climb by aerial rootlets, so you’ll want to give them some means of climbing poles and fencing if they’re unable to grab on initially. Once they establish a stable horizontal presence on their support, they’ll take over from there. Plant them 10 or 15 feet apart – the plants grow quite large and will quickly fill in the voids. If you need to prune them to maintain shape and form, that should be done over the winter while the vines are bare.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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