What has intrigued me most about the World Cup (yes, completely hooked now) is how each team has a personality that reflects their nationality. Wildly talented and colourful South Americans, not too fussy about etiquette on the field, small but fiercely determined Japanese, ice cool Swedes (worrying this…..especially if it goes to a penalty shoot out).
Plants too, often reflect the character of their country of origin. Take one of my all time favourite plants chocolate cosmos Cosmos atrosanguineus whose sultry, dusky red, Bournville scented flowers are the very essence of their native country of Mexico, which is also the home another of my winning plants – the late flowering purple and grey Salvia leucantha or Mexican sage (the clue’s in the name). And not forgetting that all dahlias species started life in Mexico, the plant hybridisers have had a field day with them since, but I still adore my simple unadulterated species Dahlia merkii. Shame Mexico’s footballing skills weren’t quite as good as their native flora.
Ronaldo’s home country of Madeira (yes they’re the ones who commissioned a statue of him that not even Madeirans could recognise) has given us several garden plants that are as flamboyant as their most famous alumnus – just take a look at Geranium maderense in full bloom and you’ll see what I mean. Growbag favourite Euphorbia mellifera is another Madeiran endemic with star quality, and if you haven’t got room to overwinter the magnificent but tender G.maderense try it’ s close relative, also from Madeira, Geranium palmatum not quite as statuesque but gets through the winter here with just a good handful of bracken pegged over its crown.
Talking of star quality – what happened to World Cup superstars Brazil? No one could doubt the star quality of Brazil’s Brugmansias which are increasingly popular conservatory plants in the UK and to be honest, these passively pendulous and exotically scented ‘Angel’s Trumpets’ are considerably sexier than any one of their team players, in my book. Now don’t get me wrong a Growbag wouldn’t turn the lads down I’m sure, but we could get fair few brugmansias for striker Neymar’s £222m price tag and frankly, scented and pendulous is probably more our thing these days.
We can’t underestimate Croatia. They are known for the plucky little Cyclamen hederifolium which are proper favourites here in Scotland. They’re hardy down to -29 degrees and will supersize themselves given half a chance – basically the sort of resilience you need if you’re taking penalties after 120 minutes on the field. If I recall Elaine’s advice, it’s best to start them in pots and you have to remember to plant them the right way up, so if you’re planning any footie-watching refreshments this week, I’d leave this until tomorrow.
I was deeply impressed with the way the Japanese team played and rather sorry that they didn’t make it through. Everywhere you looked on the pitch, there they were – rather like my Japanese wineberry, Rubus phoenicolasius looping its ‘Kanes’ (see what I did there?) through a Rosa rugosa hedge. It’s lucky that it’s an attractive plant and that its small sticky fruits taste delicious, because it is as inscrutably single-minded as the Japanese tourists, bristling with cameras and face masks, who fervently colonise London’s landmarks.
Then there are the daylilies, also hailing from Japan and Eastern Asia, which have clearly revelled in our wet spring and heat of summer. They’re in their element right now and looking positively celebratory, in contrast to their country’s devastating exit at the group stages.
Not that I am at all biased, but Sweden seems a little devoid of its own native flora, sharing its plants with most of Northern Europe. Apart, obviously, from swedes! Luckily their team’s dribbling, ball-passing and even penalty-taking was a lacklustre as their countryman’s invention of a cross between a cabbage and turnip – the swede – or, as I like to refer to it when out shopping Brassica napobrassica (as a former Classics teacher, I do wish the self-scanners used proper names for veggies).
On the subject of Classical derivations, what a plant Louise has got for us this week! The Ancient Greek meaning of Aeonium is ‘ageless’ which is appropriate for this handsome long-lived succulent.
A touch of ageless skill, and perhaps peerless defence is what our boys will need for the semi-finals – the Growbags are right behind you boys!