Music of angels

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It’s unlikely that many people will have seen this plant growing in Britain. It’s normally too cold, too wet, too windy for this creature of the sub-tropics where sun and warmth are all important.

But this evergreen (or semi-evergreen shrub) can make a distinctive container plant for a conservatory or cool greenhouse where its wonderful-scented, bold, trumpet-shaped flowers are a joy to behold.

And although Brugmansia (which were once known as Datura) are anything but hardy, they can be taken outdoors during late June, July and August and positioned to make the most of the unpredictable English summer. With any luck, they will produce the sensuous blooms which have earned Brugmansia the nickname, Angel’s Trumpets.

They can make a great talking point; they can also put you to sleep because Angel’s Trumpets pack a perfume which acts like an anaesthetic – sit in an enclosed room with one and you’ll see what I mean. Its ability to act like chloroform was the reason why for many years it was considered not fit for the family garden. Conversely, that’s why some people liked to sit beneath a mature specimen...

That apart (and the fact that all parts of the plant are toxic and the sap is an irritant), Brugmansia are ideal for a big container filled with a decent compost and placed where the sun is guaranteed to shine.

Water freely from spring to autumn and apply a balanced liquid fertiliser each month but during winter water sparingly and ensure there is a minimum night temperature of 7-10C (45-50F) and 
day temperatures between 10-12C (50-54F).

If it looks like the plant is getting too big for its roots, repot in spring when new growth appears. If it’s impossible to get the plant out of its container, top dress annually by removing three or four inches of the old compost and replacing it with new.

Brugmansia can grow to be big, but they can be hard-pruned (to within an inch of the old wood) when the plant is brought back indoors before the first frosts of autumn. The biggest drawback with pruning is that flowering will be affected. So it’s a bit of a balancing act.

Angel’s Trumpets, which normally bloom in late spring or summer to autumn, belong to the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco, many kinds of peppers, eggplant, and the likes of petunia and nicotiana.