Clerodendron bungeii: the shrub with a lot of heart

Distracting myself from the box gloom, I am reminded that I only planted Clerodendron bungeii because of Christopher Lloyd. Memory tells me that he has it at Great Dixter where it reliably returns in its sheltered spot late every late Spring. You might think that you have lost it, and then it pops up, great statuesque stakes of upright stems, topped with gorgeous oval-shaped dark green leaves…

Clerodendron bungeii, Tostat, Apr 2015

Clerodendron bungeii, Tostat, Apr 2015

It has a distinctive burgundy tone to the green of the stems, the leaves and the later flowers.  With me, it has peppered an area about 3m x 2m with its stems, and is now turning into a real feature, one which I may have to control in a couple of years, if it continues to wander.  But it is the ideal summer shrub, looking good right through to the frosts, tough, self-reliant, only showing flagging by the leaves dropping back against the stems in severe drought and high temperatures, as we have had for the last month. But it bounces back, undaunted, with the return of cooler and rainier weather. The shrub is making a comeback, they say.

Clerodendron bud, Tostat, July 2015

Clerodendron bud, Tostat, July 2015

It looks pretty good as a bud, see above, nestling into the bright green leaves, and then it opens.

Clerodendron flower, Tostat, July 2015

Clerodendron flower, Tostat, July 2015

But actually, the real beauty happens after the flower has gone over. Then, you are transported to a world of Byzantine colour and beauty, or maybe Gothic and Jacobean…

Clerodendron bungeii seedhead, Tostat, Autumn 2014

Clerodendron bungeii seedhead, Tostat, Autumn 2014

The spent flowerhead turns into a jewel, and the colour is exceptional and rich.

Of course, it has it’s downsides. It is a romper. Florida websites are full of cautionary tales, so watch out, me included, if it likes you. I mow over it in our grass if it wanders over there, and will probably have to stick in a barrier at some point. But for me, it’s worth it, a late summer show that I would miss if I took the safe route.  Another reason to be cheerful.

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