Esperanza. What a lovely Spanish word. It literally means “hope.” And hope, according to Alexander Pope, (Essay on Man) “springs eternal in the human breast.” Without hope, I doubt that a single seed would ever be planted or a single prayer ever uttered. We plant, we water, and we hope. And our hope is usually rewarded. But not always.
A friend left on an extended June vacation and hoped to find his tomato patch thriving upon his return. June heat, drought and spider mites dashed that hope, however. What he found was mostly dried-up foliage and shriveled tomatoes, a sight that would crush the hopes of many gardeners. But my buddy is no ordinary (hopeless) gardener. When I stopped by recently, I found him in his beloved garden pulling up mite-infested plants and preparing the ground for a fall tomato crop. Whipping sweat from his ornery face and sporting a smile the size of a cantaloupe slice, he uttered these hopeful words: “Just wait till you taste my fall tomatoes.” Now that is a true “Esperanza” gardener!
Esperanza (Tecoma stans) is also the name of one of my favorite summer-flowering plants. Beginning in late spring and continuing through fall, Esperanza sports some of the brightest yellow flowers in the plant kingdom. It is impossible for me to drink in the beauty of Esperanza’s radiant flowers and not feel hopeful about gardening and life itself.
Esperanza goes by several common names, including Yellow Bells, Yellow Trumpet and Yellow Alder. Regardless of what it’s called, this amazing plant gets high marks for its toughness and beauty. Golden yellow, lightly scented, trumpet-shaped flowers first appear in late spring and continue, off and on, through fall. While yellow flowers are common in the plant kingdom, there is something extra special about the deep yellow-orange coloring of Esperanza flowers. The beautiful flowers are loved by gardeners and nature’s pollinators — bees and butterflies. This morning, while enjoying a strong cup of chicory-laced coffee on my patio, I watched with interest as two bossy (territorial) hummingbirds competed for Esperanza’s nectar-rich flowers.
It’s generally wise to treat Esperanza as an annual in the Tulsa area. During mild winters, it often overwinters nicely on the protected south side of my home. However, it doesn’t do so well when the temperature drops below 15 degrees. Another option is to grow Esperanza in a decorative container on a deck or patio and bring it indoors on especially cold days.
Three Esperanza varieties are typically available at well-stocked garden centers.
Gold Star: While this variety has been around for a dozen or more years, it is still one of my favorites. It’s a fast grower and a nonstop bloomer of golden yellow, bell-shaped flowers. It is also highly heat- and drought-tolerant.
Lidia: Lidia, a relatively new hybrid, is slightly more compact than Gold Star. Its compact growth is well-suited for pot culture. It produces loads of bright yellow flowers with a richly contrasting white interior throat. Very special!
Bells of Fire: For something truly different and special, try Bells of Fire. This stunning new variety produces an abundance of fiery red-orange flowers. Try mixing Bells of Fire and Gold Star for an absolutely stunning garden display!
May “Esperanza” spring eternal in the human heart.”
Barry Fugatt is director of horticulture at the Tulsa Garden Center and Linnaeus Teaching Garden. He may be reached by email: email@example.com.