The princess flower is the perfect name for this plant. With loads of uncountable blossoms of royal purple. It’s unchallenged in its status as the most beautiful plant of late summer and fall gardens.Botanically speaking, the princess flower is known as Tibouchina urvilleana and is native to Brazil, the site of the current Olympics. The family name is Melastomataceae, and other species are most likely quite rare at your local garden center. If you can name even one more member, you are probably a horticulturist.Here at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm in Savannah, Georgia, we do have two other family members: the large-leaved or silverleafed princess flower, Tibouchina heteromalla, also from Brazil, and the extraordinary pink lantern, or Medinilla magnifica, from the Philippines. Neither are as cold hardy as the regular princess flower, but both are visually outstanding. The pink lantern, which we are growing in a large basket, has really captured my attention.The princess flower is winter hardy in zones 9 through 11, but here in Savannah, where I garden, it dies to the ground, returning with vigor in late spring. The same was true for me in Columbus, Georgia. At my home, they are now 5 feet tall and loaded with innumerable royal purple blossoms that glow almost iridescently and will dazzle and mesmerize until a killing frost.While my plants in zone 8 in Savannah are 5 feet tall, in their native Brazil and similar climates they will reach 12 to 18 feet, which is, simply put, a breathtaking sight. The leaves are velvety, deep green and oftentimes lined with orange along the margins. In the fall, the leaves will change to an orange bronze. It blooms best in full sun, though a little afternoon shade is certainly no problem. The soil should be fertile, organically rich and very well drained. Soggy conditions quickly prove fatal, so plant on raised beds if your drainage is suspect.It is not very hard to grow the princess flower in a container or to dig and overwinter the plant. The most serious requirement is to not overwater. Keep it dry during the winter. Those of you who like to propagate plants will find it easy to root from greenwood-type cuttings placed in moist sand in a shady location or to separate spreading shoots that develop.The purple is so vibrant that choosing your flower combinations is quite easy except that everything seems to look great. You will no doubt note that many consider the flowers to be blue. I can buy that for a couple of reasons. First, as a horticulturist there is an unwritten rule: If it is not orange, then we have the right to call it “blue.” Secondly there is the outstanding dwarf selection known affectionately as “Athens Blue.” Most of the time I see purple in my eyes and in photographs, too.No matter what color you see, the princess flower is stunning. I am growing a half-dozen of them and each combination seems to be a Kodak moment. In one area I have the exotic, flowered, pink ‘South Pacific Sipper’ hibiscus. The pink and purple is eye-catching, to say the least. In another area, I have a gold blooming milkweed for a superb complementary color scheme. But if you want to look like a landscape pro, try growing blue with the purple. I’m using ‘Mystic Spires Blue’ salvia. There is just something special about putting blues and purples together.You’ve also got to consider the golden thryallis, Galphimia glauca, as a partner. With hundreds of small, soft, golden blooms, it seems as though it was created just for a princess flower marriage. It too is a zone 9 through zone 11 plant, root hardy in zone 8 and superb in a container for overwintering.Lastly, as fall planting time arrives, there are some great combinations to be had, such as growing the tall cut flower ‘Amazon Rose Magic’ dianthus as an understory planting to the taller princess flower. If you are in Savannah, like me, you are probably muttering that the summer has been relentless. Just about the time we feel like throwing in the proverbial “garden towel,” the princess flower starts to amaze and causes us to linger, taking in all its beauty. I hope you will give it a try.Follow me on Twitter @CGBGgardenguru and learn more about the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm at www.coastalgeorgiabg.org/.
A total of 180 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported to the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in 2017, according to the latest IMB report.This is the lowest annual number of incidents since 1995 when 188 reports were received.In 2017, 136 vessels were boarded, while there were 22 attempted attacks, 16 vessels fired upon and six vessels hijacked.In 15 separate incidents, 91 crewmembers were taken hostage and 75 were kidnapped from their vessels in 13 other incidents. Three crewmembers were killed in 2017 and six injured.In 2016, a total of 191 incidents were reported, with 150 vessels boarded and 151 crewmembers taken hostage.Persistent danger in the Gulf of GuineaIn 2017, there were 36 reported incidents with no vessels hijacked in this area and 10 incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crewmembers in or around Nigerian waters. Globally 16 vessels reported being fired upon – including seven in the Gulf of Guinea.“Although the number of attacks is down this year in comparison with last year, the Gulf of Guinea and the waters around Nigeria remain a threat to seafarers. The Nigerian authorities have intervened in a number of incidents helping to prevent incidents from escalating,” Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, said.Sentencing Somali piratesNine incidents were recorded off Somalia in 2017, up from two in 2016.In November, a container ship was attacked by armed pirates approximately 280 nautical miles east of Mogadishu. The pirates, unable to board the vessel due to the ship’s evasive manoeuvring fired two RPG rockets, both of which missed, before retreating.Six Somali pirates were subsequently detained by European Union Naval Force, transferred to the Seychelles and charged with “committing an act of piracy” where they face up to 30 years’ imprisonment, if convicted.In the Philippines, the number of reported incidents has more than doubled, from 10 in 2016 to 22 in 2017. According to the report, the majority of these incidents were low-level attacks on anchored vessels, mainly at the ports of Manila and Batangas.Vessels underway off the Southern Philippines were boarded and crew kidnapped in the first quarter of 2017.“However, alerts broadcast by the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC), on behalf of the Philippine authorities, have since helped to avoid further successful attacks,” IMB said.