(Chinese Trumpet Creeper)
Six years ago when I went to work as a horticulturist for the Texas Agricultural Extension Service in San Antonio, I ran across a fascinating plant I had never seen before. Fanick's Nursery, an old family nursery in town had an odd looking trumpet creeper trained on a post. It was approximately twenty years old, somewhat shrubby, and had the most beautiful flowers of any Campsis I had ever seen. The flowers were very large with a unique combination of orange, yellow, and salmon.
The Fanicks had obtained the plant from a woman's house in an old German area on the south side of town. John Fanick used to admire the plant walking to school as a young boy. Later, a gentleman with the San Antonio Water Board began to propagate the plant by air layering. It was at this time that John's dad, Eddie (now over 90 years old) got the plant.
John Fanick told me that its true identity was 'Madame Galen' and those being sold were not true to name. Considering that John wasn't often wrong, and had been in the nursery business for his entire life of more than fifty years, I believed him. Confirming the mistaken identity was Dr. William C. Welch, Extension Landscape Horticulturist at Texas A&M. He remembered that as a boy, a gentleman had grafted and sold this same plant as 'Madame Galen' near his family's place in Yoakum, also a German area. He was also adamant that the plant was known for reverting back to Campsis radicans (I assume from the understock).
The same plants were found to be planted downtown at the old
Water Board building, trained on a stone wall, and at an elderly woman's house in Laredo, trained on a chain link fence. She claimed her mother planted it and didn't know its origin.
The Fanicks claimed that the large flowered Campsis was a fantastic plant but couldn't be propagated. I promptly took some cuttings and rooted them with hormone under mist, relatively "modern conveniences". I planted a plant in North East Texas, gave one to Bill Welch which he planted in a container outside his front door, and gave the rest to the Fanicks. At this point, I left Texas for a two year stint in South Louisiana.
Dr. Jerry Parsons with the Extension Service in San Antonio payed the elderly lady a visit were the plant had originated. According to her, it was over seventy years old and was there when she moved into the house. She told him it had to be grafted onto a wild one.
I continued to search for the true identity of the trumpet vine by looking up every reference I could find. To my surprise, it was not 'Madame Galen', a hybrid, but one of the parents of 'Madame Galen', Campsis grandiflora.
Upon arriving back in San Antonio, I proceeded to the mother plant on the south side to witness one of the most breathtaking sites of my horticultural life. The somewhat freestanding shrub was approximately eight feet tall and ten feet wide, covered with huge panicles of salmon orange blossoms.
An interesting phenomenon also occurred when I dug the East Texas plant and moved it. Sprouting from the remaining root system were many long, slender runners which haven't bloomed in two years.