Climbing beauty
Kiran Narain

Campsis grandiflora is equally popular in the hills as well as the plains
Campsis grandiflora is equally popular in the hills as well as the plains

CAMPSIS or Trumpet Flower (Fam. Bignoniaceae) was earlier known as Bignonia grandiflora. It is one of the most widely grown climbers, which are equally popular in the hills as well as the plains of India. It has been cultivated in English gardens since 1640 AD. A self-clinging climber, with the help of aerial rootlets, the deciduous vine grows very rampantly.

Clusters of rich orange and scarlet trumpet-shaped flowers appear in pendulous panicles in summers, from May-June onwards in plains and July- September in the hills, amid lush green pinnate leaves.

An easy to cultivate half-hardy climber, campsis can quickly cover and weigh down a trellis if not pruned each year during the winter months. Trained over rafters, it makes a good cover for pergolas or parking spaces and can be used to cover partition trellis or a not so attractive wall. A childhood memory of campsis, etched in this writer’s mind, is the beautiful climber with profuse flowers trailing from the Srinagar Tehsil building trying to reach the Jehlum. However, before growing it next to your window or verandah, remember that it attracts ants during the flowering season.

A humus rich soil and sunny position suit campsis which can easily be propagated by root cuttings in spring or removing suckers that grow at the base of the climber in early summer, as soon as they appear. All that is required is regular watering during growing season.

Ficus pimula adheres to its support by way of aerial roots
Ficus pimula adheres to its support by way of aerial roots

Since it is a rampant growing creeper, campsis can get very heavy and it would be a good idea to prune it each year, unless it is climbing up a wall. Cut the side branches back to two or three buds in late winter or early spring. One can also control the shape during the growing season by pinching and cutting trailing shoots back to two or three leaflets. In order to rejuvenate an old vine, it can be cut back to the ground in winter and when new shoots emerge, one can select one or three of the healthiest ones to be trained as a new plant.

Ficus pimula or repens (Fam. Moraceae) is the creeping fig, which adheres to its support by way of aerial roots. A charming green plant of easy culture, it originated in China and Japan, yet is commonly seen in Indian gardens climbing up and totally covering walls with its small one-inch heart shaped leaves. It does well in shade.

Commonly called chhipkali bel by gardeners due to its grasp vertically on the walls, like a lizard—landscapers to enhance the beauty of walls on the northern aspect where nothing much grows very commonly use it. A gardener gave me a tip—smearing the wall with cowdung mixed with lime enhances the creeper’s growth many times. Though I have not tried it myself but it does make some sense.

It is propagated by layering and likes peat and loam in the compost.

Ficus pimula makes a good houseplant too. Grown as a trailing plant, it makes a desirable room decoration. It can also be potted along with a moss-stick and encouraged to climb up by keeping the stick moist with the help of a spray. It is, however, equally important that the compost does not get saturated.