Dipladenia

Photo by JOE BARATY

Dipladenias are in the mandevilla family and respond well to pinching as they grow.

For all of you Monty Python fans out there, we begin this week’s article with the words of the great John Cleese: “…and now for something completely different.”

I wasn’t much in a “wild” frame of mind the past couple of weeks. An unexpected infection of a root canal got way out of control and simply took over my life. Needless to say, I wasn’t in any physical state to go trouncing up mountain trails or kayaking white water to find the subject for this article. Instead, I was moping around the house with an ice pack strapped to my face, hoping something wild would come knocking at my door.

The only real connection with the wild was an occasional walk outside to take care of my gardens. Hey … I thought to myself, gardens are wild. So hence, something completely different for this week.

Before I begin, let me make it quite clear that I cannot claim myself to be an expert in horticulture. However, it also will not be found on the long and ever growing list of things “that I know nothing about.” I actually stumbled into a seasonal career in landscaping a number of years ago, which is quite a fascinating story in and of itself. But we’ll save that for my next tooth extraction.

My garden, as all gardens should be, is an expression of who I am. That would explain then, why it is overgrown and out of control. It may look at times as if nobody has put any thought into it, when in reality, the opposite is true. My problem happens to be that I put way too much thought into it and constantly change my mind.

Take, for instance, the two large potted plants on the stairway of my front porch. Being a high-visibility focal point to my gardens, it has been of critical concern to me every year. And every year, for the past 12, what is planted in these pots has changed. Nothing has been right. Nothing has met my expectations. Nothing — until this past year.

As I sat on my porch this past week, ice pack strapped to my face, I realized that I had finally found the perfect plant material for my age-old dilemma. Perfection had come to my garden in the form of the beautiful dipladenia.

Dipladenias are in the mandevilla family, which for years has kept me from using them in my pots. My concern was that being a type of mandevilla, I would be forced to incorporate some type of climber or trellis to satisfy its unique vine-growing nature. That just wasn’t the look I was going for with these two large pots.

What I learned, however, was that dipladenias have their own unique growing habits, and they do not seek to climb as much as they just like to stretch themselves out. Additionally, they absolutely love to be pinched back and pruned during the year, and each time you snip them, they respond with more flowering. I was still hesitant in trying them, but I had nothing to lose in view of my track record with these two pots.

I purchased two mature plants and potted them in mid-May. They were already in full bloom when I purchased them. My front porch provided the perfect light requirements since they enjoy plenty of light but not direct sun. I watered them two to three times each week and cut back any runners that were too leggy. They are truly low maintenance plants.

Now September is about to roll in on us. The evenings are already getting cooler, and I am sitting here admiring my new favorite plants. Both are fuller in foliage than the day I potted them, and both have more flowers, even this late in the season.

This will be my first real attempt in over-wintering any plant material, but from all that I have read, the dipladenias will continue to please even indoors. My plan is to harbor them at my wife’s office during the cool months since she has a sunny, well-lit lobby area. I’m going to set both pots close to one another … and pray they have babies, because I want more of these perfect plants in my garden come spring.

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