October 25th, 2008
Lurid Fall Pinks

Antigonon leptopus
Bees love coral vine, Antigonon leptopus.

Antigonon leptopus
None of my specially selected four o’clocks come back. But there’s no getting rid of this common one. It seeds prolifically and forms huge tuberous roots as well.

Aren’t those two colors just scary together?

lurid: very vivid in color, esp. so as to create an unpleasantly harsh or unnatural effect

I’m not, nor have I ever been, a fan of pink. Apart from a very pale ice pink of some roses—like my beloved ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison)—I don’t choose pinks on purpose. (And I’d love SdlM just as well if she were pale apricot–because what really I love about her is the quartered form of her flowers, not the color.)

I can admire the warming pinks of late spring and early summer. The colors of the meadow evolve with the season from the cool bluebonnet blues of March, to the larkspur purples of April, to finally the various warm May Day Pinks. Pink seems very seasonal–for Spring.

But Fall’s colors should be fiery.

Instead my garden is currently drenched in gaudy, garish pinks. And yes, these pinks have been blooming at the same time as the oxblood lilies, the turk’s cap, and the red spider lilies against a background of indifferent purple heart. The result is a garden colorist’s nightmare. Add in some orange cosmos and butterfly weed to complete the chaos.

Pandorea ricasoliana
Podranea ricasoliana is called desert trumpet/willow vine in Austin because the flowers look strikingly similar to the desert willow’s.

And what am I doing to resolve this problem? Nothing. Because these plants survive. They survived the entire summer without any attention at all. Not one drop of supplemental water. Although the coral vine did not climb 30 feet into a tree this year as it did in the rainy summer of 2007, it has covered my entire driveway fence (while trying to eat my husband’s car). And the bees love it. It drooped in the heat but never succumbed. Coral vine is just one of those plants I associate with old Austin. I’d as soon cut it out as move to the suburbs.

The four o’clock plants died all the way down to the ground during the summer but at the first hint of rain they shot up a couple of feet in a couple of weeks and have been flowering ever since. I like the scent and the plants get big only after most of the spring wildflowers are finished. So we have a truce.

Not so with the P. ricasoliana. I spend hours hacking back the Port St. Johns creeper (aka desert trumpet vine). The vines are voracious, swallowing up a large stand of yucca, taking over the entire north border by self-layering. They also form huge tuberous roots. There seems no way to get rid of them. I started out with three plants in 4-inch pots and they have swallowed up the north side of my yard, even though frost cuts them to the ground every year. Apparently they only get enough sun in my yard to flower about three weeks of the year, in late October. I think I could like them if they were less vigorous and flowered in spring. As it is, I regret I ever introduced them.

by M Sinclair Stevens

15 Responses to post “Lurid Fall Pinks”

  1. From Annie in Austin:

    What spectacular photographs these are, MSS -even if you don’t love the plants! Maybe I should be glad that planting queen’s wreath three times didn’t work, or that my four o’clocks died, because those magenta pinks sure don’t go well with autumn or Halloween color schemes, do they?

    The neighbors’ magenta crepe myrtles are done, but natives in the front yard snatched the rose-pink banner before it fell – pink gaura, pink skullcap and cherry pink Salvia greggii. They escape being lurid because their flowers are small & dainty, and the ratio of leaf-to-flower favors the green.

    In back the Mexican mint marigolds and pineapple sages are kind of fiery… but they do need supplemental water.

    Good luck in the battle with the Podranea!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Yes, at least we can be thankful that it’s too late for the magenta crape myrtles to bloom. I don’t mind dainty pink flowers. Overall, however, I prefer clear colors or white. I could probably like all these flowers more if they weren’t competing with the reds and oranges of fall. — mss

  2. From jodi:

    I have four-o’clock envy, because I don’t get enough heat to get them to do anything here. But as for the lurid pinks–I enjoy pinks and magenta and such at this time of year because they’re a nice difference from the oranges, golds, russets and reds, etc that we usually have. Awesome photos, as always.

    Thanks. I guess it’s our nature to want something other than what we have. Austinites really have to hunt for fall foliage colors and so I long for yellows, oranges, and reds as we approach All Hallows. — mss

  3. From Carol, May Dreams Gardens:

    Those are indeed happy flower colors, and since those plants made it through the terrible drought, it really doesn’t matter what color they are, does it? It’s just wonderful that they are there and flowering and the bees love them. The garden lives.

    They are as welcome as a new post from a favorite writer who has not posted in a long time.

    Yes. I give the survivors their props. I’ve always had a hard time pulling out anything that is actually alive. I’m more a wilderness manager than a real gardener. My garden relies a lot on my “weeds”. — mss

  4. From kate:

    Any colours in the garden look pretty good to me right now. I like the blooms of the Podranea… haven’t seen these before.

    I like the idea that these plants have survived without any additional water and do so well!

    The Podranea could be a useful plant in some cases. The flowers are fairly large, rather like frilly foxgloves (which I can’t grow). In full sun, it would probably flower for a longer season. But it self-layers like mad. So they require a big space, or a well-contained one. — mss

  5. From Pam/Digging:

    Thanks for the warning about the Podranea ricasoliana. I will be sure to avoid that one. I used to have hot pink salvia and roses and orange lantana and cuphea in the front garden together. I didn’t really mind. The orange gave it all a punch of seasonal color.

    If you have a big fence or shed you want to cover, the Podranea might be just the thing. And you like pinks and lavenders. But in your new yard, you’d probably have the same problem of too much shade for it. It’s not a plant that likes variety–it wants to be king of the space. — mss

  6. From compostinmyshoe Charleston, SC:

    Pink is too important in climates where the heat and sun are major forces to confront. Pink and red, pink and lime green, pink and orange…..all combos that give sun drenched gardens zing, not to mention are found in multi-colored flowers in nature……

    I guess I prefer serene to zing. As Uncle Monty says, “Flowers are such tarts.” — mss

  7. From bill / prairie point:

    That creeper sounds creepy. I think I’ll avoid it. I have a lot of pink salvia right now myself. I don’t like pink much myself but in small doses it is okay.

    I wonder if it’s too cold up your way for it. As creepers go, at least it isn’t thorny or poisonous. And, most people would say the flowers were pretty. But it is aggressive. — mss

  8. From Jenny Austin:

    When I saw your four o’ clocks I was thinking” I’d like some of those” until I read about the tuberous root and the impossible to get rid of. I think I have those kind of plants aplenty. Still I like the pinks although here it’s the oranges and yellows at the moment. I’ve learnt to enjoy the chaos of flower colors. English cottage garden?

  9. From Kathy:

    Sometimes we grow 4 o’clocks, but the tubers never winter over. I think I dug them like dahlias once and replanted them, but they didn’t bloom any faster than from seed, so why bother?

    As soon as I saw the title of your post I thought of colchicums and wondered if some would do for you, but since you’re not really fond of the color, I guess not.

  10. From Frances:

    Hi MSS, wilderness management, seems a noble profession. We have an out of control four o’clock too, but it is white. I would much rather have the pink, want to trade? Like some of the others, I think pink can join in the orgy of fall colors, but did not always feel that way. Less of a purist now. LOL


  11. From Steve Mudge(Fort Worth):

    I’m a fan of the Coral Vine too–I’d used it in California in some of my landscapes. But I was amazed to see its adaptibility in the wilds–growing prostrate on coastal desert bluffs in Baja California to twining all over enormous subtropical forest canopies in mainland Mex. I’m not a big user of pinks in my gardens either but this one is fiery enough to distinguish itself from the usual denizens.

  12. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter:

    All you need is a color to go in between those neon pinks. I’m thinking something nice & silvery gray would tone them right down. I love the lurid pinks – the more garish the better. Of course I get about 4 months of nothing but a purist’s delight of white, black, dark green & gray, so I guess that explains it.

  13. From Diana - Austin:

    MSS- As you know, I just love that Coral Vine. Not necessarily next to that other pink – I’m with you on the color clash thing and have a few examples of that myself. My magenta nicotiana went in right in front of the red turk’s cap. Who planted it there? Why, ME, of course!

  14. From Cindy, Katy:

    The white coral vine would look lovely with that common four o’clock, though!

  15. From Dawn:

    Hi MSS!

    What lovely photos once again! The Podranea ricasoliana is a beautiful flower — I like the dark veins of color within — but sounds like it’s too aggressive for my taste as well. You may feel as deeply about it as I did about my dreaded trumpet vine back in Missouri (oh the trauma!) 😉