On Gardening: Trumpeting the scrambling Blue Glory vine

November 9, 2015

Blue Glory has a scrambling to mounding type habit.

A stroll through the garden today revealed Blue Glory looking as good today, the first week in November, as it did back in mid-May after it had returned after cold weather killed it to the ground. I first started growing Blue Glory a little more than a dozen years ago, and it has been everything we as horticulturists hoped it would be, and more.

Blue Glory is known botanically as Thunbergia battiscombei. We know thunbergias from the clock vine or black-eyed Susan vine Thunbergia alata and, of course, the Brazilian sky flower Thunbergia grandiflora. While the last two are real climbing vines Blue Glory is more of a scrambler and in fact is known as scrambling sky flower.

It is native to tropical Africa but is finding favor in the lower South as well. Back in 2003 we were finding success with it as a returning perennial in zone 8, and now trials are finding it returning in zone 7, too. But what is wonderful is that gardeners in colder zones are finding the iridescent blue flowers such a welcome addition to the garden that they are electing to buy it and grow it as an annual.

The trumpet-shaped flowers are not only a rare, saturated blue color, but they offer their own complementary color scheme with a showy bright-yellow throat. How can you go wrong with such a plant? Iíve seen Blue Glory blooming as a companion with the black-eyed Susan vine in early summer, and this may be the ultimate in both beauty and gaudiness.

Blue Glory produces light green, herbaceous stems that hold large 5-by-7-inch heart-shaped leaves. The leaves are bright green and smooth-edged. Rather than growing alternately along the stem, these leaves grow directly across from one another.

From the axils, where the leaf attaches to the stem, arise clusters of interesting 1-inch-long hairy white flower buds. From these emerge the intense blue-purple, trumpet-shaped flowers that create such a stunning sight against the handsome foliage.

Blue Glory is not fussy about soil as long as it is well drained. Feed with frequent, light applications of fertilizer with each flush of the brilliant blossoms. It will do best in full sun but will also thrive in morning sun and afternoon shade. We are growing several here in our Cottage Garden in Savannah, Ga., and both the full scorching sun and filtered light areas produce an outstanding plant.

In one area we are growing them as companions to gingers and elephant ears, and, in another, crinums and white buddleia are in proximity. They would combine wonderfully with mandevillas or allamandas for an extra-exotic tropical appeal. Try also partnering with the candy corn cupheas. You can tie and train to a trellis and coax them to 6 feet or so or, as the name would suggest, let them scramble and sprawl to form a mound.

Blue Glory and its scientific name Thunbergia battiscombei are just now finding their way into reference books; as with many other things the online sources are much more prevalent. I am happy to say that garden centers, however, have jumped on the bandwagon, because you just canít have too many blue flowers. This one is outstanding.



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