Monty Don on Gardening - Exotic and Opulent plants - Brugmansia article

I have dug out this article from The Guardian newspaper dated December 2000 which has an excellent extract on Monty's Brugmansia plants, see below:

Our slightly weedy Brugmansia sanguinea flowered moderately well in August, producing flowers that started as pink and unfurled into orangey-yellow trumpets set against marvellously defined leaves, the veins as crisp and incised as handprinted green flock wallpaper. It will, apparently, make 30ft or more in the right conditions, but in the past five or six years has never got much above 5ft. I kept it in its pot, but moved it outside for a couple of months. It has a nasty habit of dying back with rather hysterical form, rising again next spring from a seemingly lifeless carcass.

At the end of July, I planted our Brugmansia x candida into a sheltered corner of the walled garden. It had spent the previous six years in a succession of pots in the greenhouse, outgrowing the available space. It didn't help that it changed its name from Datura halfway through this period. I had a girlfriend once who changed her name. It didn't work for me. I fell for the first name and wasn't sure I fancied this other moniker (Monica?) Maybe it happens more than I know outside my tightly sheltered world.

However, call it any name you like, I still want to care and tend for these Angels' Trumpets as best I can. As it had lived in a pot for a few years, the roots were bound. One of the main reasons for getting it outside - other than the fact that it was taking up a lot of space - was to give the roots a chance to shake themselves out. I dug it up yesterday and it has worked a treat. The roots have gone from being a dense, pot-shaped block to a fibrous mass of spreading tentacles. It grew at twice any previous rate over the past few months, although it has largely defoliated in the few frosts that we have had. This would have been reduced if I had been more attentive and bought it indoors, but the leaves will yellow and drop even in ideal conditions when they are dormant.

Brugmansias mostly come from the Andes, where they grow in wet, warm conditions. Ideally, they would never be exposed to temperatures greater than 30 C or less than 5 C. But as long as the roots do not freeze and that they get plenty of water, they are fairly robust. They really do need lots of water but I have made the mistake in the past of using compost that is too water retentive. They need the same mix and treatment as peaches or citrus plants - lots of water but very good drainage. A potting compost mixed 50 per cent volume of perlite seems about right. They also need regular feeding - once a week in growth and once a month in winter - with either a home-made liquid fertiliser or liquid seaweed.

The reason one grows the thing is for the brief show of extraordinary white trumpet flowers. These start as a tight paper spiral and twist open into a fanfare of flower before shrivelling away. Like angels, they come in serried ranks looking like the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth.

Brugmansias belong to the same family as Deadly Nightshade, and all parts of the plant are supposedly poisonous. I think as long as you do not chew on them you will come to no ill. This does, however, add a touch of spice to the already exotic. These plants are supposedly magnets for red spider mite and if you see any sign of cobwebs on them, assume the worst - although a spray with soft soap and good ventilation will help. I have found that snails are very fond of them and it is worth picking over the leaves regularly to see what assorted nasties they are harbouring. Within our organic set-up I have no intention of using prophylactic sprays to protect them.

See the full article here:

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Q. What is Brugmansia? A. Brugmansia are native to tropical regions of South America, along the Andes from Venezuela, through Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia to northern Chile, and also in south-eastern Br