The pleasure of the Francisia bush comes in threes – three nicknames that is, writes Julie Thomson.

Don’t you love the whimsy of plant names? The show-stopper in bloom at the moment, the lovely and fragrant tri-shaded Francisia is commonly called ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’ and sometimes it’s known as ‘Kiss Me Quick’.

How and why did these quirky names come about? They sound like a sequel to a daytime soapie….. Days of Our LivesYesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

The three-worded nickname is probably linked to this pretty bush’s tri-coloured broad flowers that fade from dark to light over three days, from purple to mauve then white. The name ‘Kiss Me Quick’ has a hurriedness about it, suggesting an urgency to capture beauty that is passing and won’t last – as is the case with this plant.

But in its brief and lovely show, it produces glorious perfumed masses of beautiful violet, lavender blue and white blooms on dense evergreen foliage, with the three colours present on the bush at the same time. It’s a popular and heady favorite for tropical gardens, and as a hedge or screen in seaside allotments.

For those who like to address their garden specimens more formally, it is actually a Brunfelsia, but also known as Francisia. The genus name Brunfelsia comes from 16th century German monk, Otto Brunfels, who was a theologist, botanist and also a doctor – he had a triple thing going too. The species name, bonodora, is from the Latin, and means sweet-smelling.

The down side

The Brunfelsia or Francisia or whatever you choose to call it, is not for gardeners whose dogs chew on their plants, or with small children who might do likewise, because its brown berries are poisonous.

Eating them has caused fever, vomiting, muscle tremors, staggering and seizures. If you have a dog, remove the berries every year.
Plus the Francisia plant are hazardous for hayfever sufferers – their strong scent wreaks havoc on sensitive airways and eyes.

Care for them

Put Brunfelsias in a warm, sunny position with protection from frost, with rich, well-drained soil and adequate water in summer and during dry spells. They should be kept moist but not overly wet. Tip prune after flowering to keep them bushy. If they get too tall and dense, the sun can’t get to the leaves and they turn brown, which is a common complaint from growers.

You can propagate Brunfelsia from soft woody cuttings and by saving and drying the seed from the seed pods and planting in moist soil with growing agents. They do well in pots, although they should be moved to larger containers as they grow.

Where they’ll grow

Blessedly, they seem to thrive on neglect and rough conditions. These lovely specimens, pictured, for example, grow in spartan and unloved conditions in the corner of the local shopping centre car park. But they burst into are a heady and glorious picture every spring, scoring one up for nature in their harsh and unlovely tarmac surrounds.

Yes, they are well named. I do want to kiss them!