Sunday, 28 July 2013

Bring in the passion!

My garden has taken on an autumnal feel in certain parts, as the last couple of week’s battle against spider mites now is well and truly lost. My crocosmias are still flowering, but the leaves are completely brown and dying and look more like they do in late November. One of my hydrangeas at the bottom of my garden hasn’t even started properly to flower, but the leaves are dropping at an astonishing rate and many of my fuchsias and most of the dahlias are beyond rescue. My only consolation is that none of the plants will die from this attack, the leaves and flower buds will just drop much earlier than normal and next year the plants will recover and look just as beautiful. The chances of getting such a hot, dry summer next year, and the same problem again, is probably around close to zero, so I am not being too depressed about the devastation all around me, it’s just what gardening is about – you never know what each season is going to throw at you!


Today’s post is going to be about something I have been growing at the bottom of my garden for the last 2 years. This photo is from early spring 2007, when my garden looked very different and I still had a lawn. In the bottom bed I had a small, very cute conifer growing which I inherited with the house. It grew a bit every year and looked very nice and healthy and I thought it was a lovely feature in my woodland corner.

Until the tree stopped growing. The growing tip died, then some branches, then some more and over a period of two years the whole tree died and I ended up with this dead tree stump. I thought about just cutting the whole thing down, but being such a small garden, it is nice to have some tall features so I did wonder if I could find something to grow up this tall, free structure that was just standing there waiting for a plant. A friend of mine had a mature passionflower growing in his garden and it produced a lot of suckers. In spring 2011 I dug up one of them, a nice, long, single branch of about 1m long and put it in a pot and took it home.

The sucker grew like mad over the summer and got too tall to handle in a pot so late autumn 2011, I planted it at the bottom of the tree. It had already branched into three branches and I managed to drape it nicely over the tree. The passion flower is a Passiflora caerulea and in London it is semi-evergreen – it is green all year but loses some leaves over winter which is replaced the following spring.

This photo is from last autumn, when I got TWO flowers! I didn’t think I would get flowers that early, I thought I would have to wait for years before I would get any flowers, after all, this plant was just a sucker dug up from the ground the year before.

And here it is today, after two years, still just a baby, but look at the size of it now. Passiflora caerulea needs up to 10 years to become fully mature and give it another 4-5 years, this tree stump will be completely covered in long lianas and I will most certainly have to get the big shears out to make sure it doesn’t invade all the neighbour plants, as each liana can become up to 20m long!

Speaking of baby, the passionflower- feature is rather a baby next to my big tree, which you normally don’t see in my photos, the tall conifer, also inherited with the house, is simply too tall to feature in my usual long shot so all you can see is the tree trunk at the bottom right corner. Here they are next to each other and you can see the difference in height. I think I need to get someone to help me prune the bottom of the tall conifer, which probably is a Western redcedar, or else the passion flower will most likely jump into the conifer and start scrambling up it. That would be a bit of a sight, a redcedar smothered with passionflowers!

I have been waiting for flowers all spring, and I have not been disappointed, it is covered in buds! There must be several hundred flower buds and I have had lots of flowers already. The problem with such a tall climbing frame is of course that the flowers are mainly at the top where the sun is shining mostly, 4 metres up. I am not climbing ladders to get a good picture, I do draw a line there!

So I have been waiting patiently for flowers further down to open up and this week they finally got going. I was hoping for a whole plant smothered in flowers but that’s not really how this one has been flowering, instead there is one flower here and there on each branch opening up so I haven’t got any pictures of a long chain of flowers. Maybe in a few years time, when the passionflower is a bit more mature, it is still just a baby, despite its size!

The Passiflora or 'Passion flower' (Flos passionis) acquired its name from descriptions of its flower parts supplied in the Seventeenth Century by Spanish priests in South America, known at that time as the 'New Spain'. It was known by the Spanish as "La Flor de las cinco Llagas" or the 'The Flower With The Five Wounds.' 'Passionis' refers to (Christ's) suffering. The parts were interpreted from drawings and dried plants by Giacomo Bosio, a churchman and historian, in Rome (1609), as representing various elements of the Crucifixion. (From www.passionflow.co.uk)

The five petals and five sepals are the ten disciples less Judas & Peter. The corona filaments are the crown of thorns. The five stamen with anthers match the five sacred wounds & the three stigma the nails. This symbolism is not universal however, in Japan it is sometimes known as 'The Clock-faced Plant' and apparently has recently been adopted as a symbol for homosexual Japanese youths. (From www.passionflow.co.uk)

This has been an exciting experiment so far, and much easier than I thought. The extremely cold and long winter and spring we had did not harm the passionflower in any way, neither the exposed position it has in my garden – must be a tough plant, probably tougher than getting credit for. I have read that Passiflora caerulea is now growing wild in most parts of Greater London, to huge nuisance to the highway maintenance department clearing roads and railway sides, the plant is sprouting up everywhere thanks to birds eating the fruit and dropping the seeds around. I didn’t get any fruits from the two flowers I had last year but I hope to see some fruits this year, we certainly have the best weather conditions for it this year. The fruits however are not for eating, just ornamental, you can eat them but apparently they don’t taste much at all. The edible ones you buy in the supermarket comes from a different variety called Purple Passionflower, Passiflora edulis, and that is a much tender plant not suited for the UK winter.

I suppose anyone can do with a little passion in their lives so I can warmly recommend this plant with these gorgeous flowers!
Until next time, take care.

34 comments:

  1. Another wonderful glimpse into your garden, Helene! I love how you've repurposed that dead tree so well. I've admired passion vines but cannot think of a good spot in my garden. But I do love the unusual features of the blooms -- they always manage to look a bit alien to me!

    And you're certainly right about the garden. Weather and plant health and soil health and bug populations can be so variable that it's difficult to predict how a plant will do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, I do think the flowers look a bit alien too! They are so intricate, I will take some close-ups when I get some flowers a bit further down, these photos were taken with my camera held over my head!

      Delete
  2. This is a wonderful addition to your garden. It's as if the tree died to provide you with a form to grow this gorgeous flowering vine. I'm so happy it's doing well :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, I suppose as a structure, the dead tree should have been twice as tall, the passion flower is going to grow out of its space pretty soon, but I can always prune it :-)

      Delete
  3. You're so right about just adapting to whatever each season throws at you. Our summers here can be absolutely devastating, especially when we get really heavy monsoonal rains or cyclones. Each and every summer is different.

    That Passiflora is lovely, and obviously loves that spot in your garden. What a great way to use an old tree stump. I've got a couple rather large tree stumps that really need something to cover them. I'll have to do some thinking!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Each and every summer has certainly been different here for many years, and it makes it difficult to predict which plants will do well, or even survive.

      I was surprised how quickly this sucker grew, in your climate it will probably grow even quicker as mine didn’t grow much during winter. You can probably grow more tender passion flowers too, possibly the edible one, if you are not growing it already then :-)

      Delete
  4. Helene, it was a nice idea to plant Passionflower near the died tree. It looks well now, with flowers. I'm glad you won spider mites, congratulation!
    I've posted about Oslo Botanic garden,you will have to translate, sorry:
    http://nadezda-garden.blogspot.ru/2013/07/blog-post_22.html
    Have you been there?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, but I didn’t win over the spider mites, I lost! The spider mites have taken over large parts of the garden and there is nothing more I can do then spraying all the plants with water every evening, it keeps the spider mite populations from absolutely exploding, but it doesn’t get rid of them.

      I have been to Oslo Botanical Garden a few time, how fun to see your photos! It is a long time since last time, as I haven’t lived in Oslo since 1990.

      Delete
  5. We planted a piece a couple of years ago and last year it flowered well into winter and kept some leaves throughout. It can be a bit of a thug and was sprouting under some decking we once had. WE have to be severe with it. Lovely flowers and there are some amazing varieties.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am prepared to take the big guns out to keep this one in check! I don't want it to spread like it did in my friends garden, where this sucker comes from. But those flowers are so beautiful, it makes me want to have another passionflower, in a different colour. I need another dead tree!

      Delete
  6. Your beautiful blue flowering Passion Flower does really bring in passion. I suppose your enclosed garden is a very good spot for this plant, not too much cold wind, lots of sun. I tried it here already a long time ago but without result, it died in winter. I think not only due to the cold, but the wet soil, that is even worse. Glad the spider mites have gone, all together your garden still looks very nice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am afraid the spider mites have not gone at all, they are still here, in billions! They will be here until the colder weather kills them.

      Last winter I had down to minus 8 degrees Celsius in my garden, I am surprised the passionflower survived it, being a young, newly established plant. Having survived a winter like that I supposed I can expect it to survive for years to come!

      Delete
  7. Your garden looks lovely Helene I don't recognize the spider mites. And what a difference with 2007. Your passionflower is wonderful I had it for 3 years but suddenly it dissapeared and did not come back.
    I wish you a wonderful sunday Helene.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry to hear about your passionflower, there is always a chance something might happen to our plants, especially during winter. My passionflower has already produced one sucker which I have dug up and potted, it is now about 1m tall, so if the mother plant should die, at least I have another baby on the way!
      Have a wonderful Sunday you too :-)

      Delete
  8. What a great idea! Unfortunately in Switzerland the passion flower wouldn't survive our cold winters outside, that's why I gave mine away. I was fed up with taking it inside each fall.
    In my garden too, autumn is already showing his first signs... much too early if you ask me... but no one is really asking me *LoL*. However at the moment it's just hot, hot, and even hotter. We've got over 34 degree and I'm suffering with all my plants... but I do water them, don't worry :o)
    Have a lovely Sunday
    xxx Alex

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is still hot here too, 32 degrees yesterday and although we got some lovely rain last night which cooled down things a bit, it is back to hot weather today. But I am not complaining, I have waited 7 years for a proper summer, that’s how long it is since last time we had one! Have a lovely Sunday you too :-)

      Delete
  9. Great idea to use the dead tree as support - it looks ever so healthy, so you obviously picked the correct spot Helene!
    Winter wet up here is the problem for these beauties.
    Sorry to read of your spidermite problems - my garden will suffer at the mouths of the slugs and snails the next few days as the much needed rain has now brought them out in their droves! Hey ho! That's gardening, just as you say!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Angie, it's 10 days since I wrote this post, finally getting around to answering the rest of the messages! And in the mean time my passionflower has started to produce fruit! I discovered three here the other day, but there might be more higher up than I can see.

      Delete
  10. I didn't realise red spider mite survived outdoors, I've had them on houseplants and in the greenhouse often enough though.

    This spring I planted out a passion flower cutting. It certainly won't flower this year, but is growing well so I'm hoping it will survive the winter. Your experience gives me a lot of encouragement!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've been fortunate if you never had spider mites in your garden! With all the heavy rain we have had from time to time the last week and the cooler weather it seems like the spider mites have finally started to slow down in numbers.

      Good luck with your passionflower cutting, it grows like mad when it really takes off!

      Delete
  11. The photos of your passion flower are exquisite. I bet it can't wait to clamber up that tree.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, it already covers the tree well, not sure what to do when the tree is 'full' :-)

      Delete
  12. These are lovely pictures of some great plants... how I wish I could grow crocosmias here but I have failed time and again... hope you are well... Larry

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Larry, I've been doing more gardening and less computing lately, got a few of your posts to catch up on! But with the weather we are having I need to be outside and soak it up, never know what kind of winter we get, the last one was very long and I can live well on a summer like we have this year. Sorry you can't grow crocosmias, they are so beautiful, I am sure you have done all you can so the only thing to do is to move on and choose something else :-)

      Delete
  13. Hi Helene
    The passion flower is such a beauty! So very unusual - I love it! And what a clever idea to have it climb up the dead tree. Excellent! Sorry to hear that stupid bugs have destroyed much of your garden this year. Honestly - if it's not crazy weather, it's crazy bugs! Glad we gardeners are so strong and optimistic! We just carry on :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, not much else to do, carry on! My gardn is slowly recovering from the bug attack - with cooler weather and some really heavy rain almost every day it has helped a lot. Some plants are putting out new growth and might even recover this year, but will certainly be OK next year.

      Delete
  14. Several hundred flower buds! That's truly impressive! Passion Flowers are so unique and beautiful. Congratulations on the success of your vine training. I've never seen this technique explained before--it's fascinating!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, I haven't seen this technique explained before either, I just got the idea since the dead tree was standing there pretty useless in my garden and I had this passionflower cutting that needed something to grow up on!!
      And now it is making fruit too, I will have a taste, even though I have read it doesn't taste much, at least I can vouch for what they taste like :-)

      Delete
  15. The thing I love most about your blog, Helene, is that you have a small garden jam-packed with plants which all have a tale to tell. The passion flower is an excellent addition and all the better for being a freebie from your friend's garden!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your kind words, yes I do feel I have a personal relationship with all my plants, I know their names, where and when I got them and often there is a specific reason why one specific plant is planted in a specific place. And yes, my garden is jam-packed, I stack my plants like sardines, sideways and on top of each other!

      Delete
  16. Sorry to hear the spider mites did so much damage. Love that you decided to grow a vine on that dead tree. It's so coated in green I never would have even thought it was just a tree stump.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, yes, and the best thing is that passionflowers are evergreen so this 'tree' has its leaves in the winter too!

      Delete
  17. What a gorgeous flower and fantastic idea to grow along that dead tree -- in that way you didn't have to buy any poles or anything for the plant to climb.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it has proved to be a better solution than I could have hoped for, only thing I dread is when this passionflower becomes really mature and needs pruning, I will have to get up on a ladder to reach it as it is way too high to reach from the ground. I'll cross that bridge when I get there!

      Delete