I first came across amicia zygomeris when visiting a garden in Burghfield, Berkshire. ‘Interesting plant,’ I thought, ‘but it can’t possibly be hardy.’ There was a small plant for sale, but I left it on the sales table.
Fast forward twelve months. The plant had gnawed away at me until I looked it up on the internet. It is a perennial from Mexico. It grows to about eight feet from a standing start, loving full sun and a well-drained soil that holds on to some moisture. Each leaf consists of two leaflets; these are heart-shaped with the pointed end attached to the plant and the indented end facing the viewer. At the base of each leaf stalk is a large, rounded stipule (a leaf-like appendage), green with purple veining, and diffused with reddish-purple. If that was not exciting enough, yellow pea-type flowers are carried from late September or early October until a succession of heavy frosts brings them to an end.
I decided to visit the garden again and buy one, but my plan was thwarted when the owner inconsiderately died three weeks before the planned event. It took me another couple of years before I finally tracked one down.
Is it hardy? Well it should take -10C in a sheltered spot. A dry winter mulch will help in colder areas, but severe water-logging seems to be a greater enemy than cold. Slugs and snails are said to have a liking for the early growth, although they can find much more tasty things to browse on in my garden and have left it alone.