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.