Monday, October 31, 2011

Familiar Indian Flowers by Lena Lowis

Selina "Lena" Caroline Shakespear Lowis, my maternal great, great grandmother
Lithograph & description of Bignonia Venusta
Familiar Indian Flowers by Lena Lowis
London: M&N Hanhart Lithographers

   The brilliant appearance this creeper exhibits when in full blossom, in the months of February and March, cannot be described. The branches of tubular orange-coloured flowers, drooping amidst the bright, shining leaves, form a lovely spectacle.

   It requires a strong support, and will often climb up high trees. The lower stems have a bare and unsightly appearance, if the plant is allowed to get too straggling in its growth; it should, therefore, be severely pruned to keep it within bounds.

   The tubular throat is sometimes two inches long, while the lip is curved back, exposing the green stamens. There are some eight or ten flowers on each bunch, and when the entire plant is covered with these gorgeous heads of blossom, it presents a perfect blaze of colour, and is most ornamental.

   It is native of India, and may be seen in all parts. If allowed to trail on the ground it will send out roots at the joints of the leaves, forming young plants.

   The usual mode of propagation, however, is by cuttings, which take most readily. The young tendrils are of a pale, greenish colour, and very soft and pretty.

   I cannot find any flower of this name in Roxburgh, but his description of "Bignonia Grandiflora" so agrees with this that I think they must be identical. Many of the Bignoniaceae are large and handsome trees, but these I have never seen. Roxburgh mentions one, "Bignonia Undulata," which has the same coloured flowers as our specimen; but it is a large tree, with a trunk as thick as a man's thigh.

   There is another pretty variety, called by Ferminger "Bignonia Incarnata." It is almost white, with a deep lilac or purple inside the throat.

   The leaves of this specimen are heart-shaped, some being three or four inches long, smooth, and very numerous.