Wednesday, July 14, 2010

California Dreamin' I: Passionate about Passifloras

One of the reasons for my lack of posts recently was that I was in California for a couple of weeks. Every time I go to the San Francisco Bay area I fall in love with it again. Well, at least with the gardens; I'm not sure I could deal with actually living where summer temperatures average around 65! But the mild, cool climate means an incredible plant palette on hand. Of course just as people in Seattle tend to overplant Rhododendrons and Hypericums, there are certain plants in the Bay Area that everyone and his brother plants. Some - like Arabian jasmine and Brugmansias, don't bother me; I'm always happy to see and smell them. Others, like Bird-of-Paradise and Agapanthus (aka "Gas-station lilies") do get old, though some of the deep purple Agapanthus are quite nice. As for the white iris-like Neomarica (?) that is everywhere, the jury's out. It's nice but there are so many others available as well!

This time I was particularly captivated by the passion flowers (Passiflora). In Seattle we could grow P. caerulea and P. incarnata (if you dare plant them), and perhaps in a mild year you might bet Passiflora x "Incense" to overwinter. In On every errand I would make sure to take a different street in order to see as many yards as possible, and every outing seemed to turn up a new Passiflora.

The first one I ran across was "Blue Boquet" (above) on a fence by the sidewalk. The woman who grew it was rather at her wits' end with various problems in the area and was ripping everything up (almost in spite it seemed) and moving out of town. I begged some cuttings and she was more than happy to oblige. When I went back a couple days later, it had been hacked back to a stump. Which - like in the case of Clematis "Betty Corning" and so many other things in live, just goes to show, if you want it, don't dawdle!

Right around the corner (I was tipped off by the same lady), was an enormous, robust P. ligularis, also known in Hawaii as "lilikoi," or "banana passion fruit." It's one of many introduced plants that has become a serious invasive in that state, but in California it seems to be better behaved; the "bad boy" status being reserved for the rampant P. caerulea. I took several cuttings from this one as well, and noticed that it was setting abundant fruit. This is especially good news as many Passifloras need another clone to fruit, but this one is evidently self-fertile. I wish I had a reason to be in Berkeley again a couple months hence!

There was one large pink vine right down the street from my friend's house that I believe is a selection of P. manicata called "Coral Sea." It's quite common in the area. One thing I like about many of the tubular-flowerd Passifloras is that although they are robust (to put it mildly), they don't seem to throw up suckers everywhere like some of the others.

One day while heading over to a friends house down a street I'd walked several times, I saw a large fence covered with two different Passifloras that I'd missed before. Evidently the day I'd passed by it had unexpectedly gotten warm and all the flowers had closed and I hadn't noticed them from across the street. They were also quite beautiful. The brilliant red Passifloras are rather a mystery to me but I think it *might* be "Cordilia," a P. vitifolia cross. Elsewhere I took starts from another variety (but had no camera then) with less reflexed petals

On the same fence was this other very nice deep coral pink variety as well. Another P. manicata hybrid perhaps?

Normally I like to ask before taking a start of any plant but when th vine covers 10 square meters of fence space, I figure only a truly greedy or completely anal retentive person would object! And anything that crawls out onto the sidewalk is fair game as far as I'm concerned. If anyone knows for sure what these varieties are, do let me know.

As for propagation, Passifloras are generally pretty trouble-free. I've rooted them in a glass of water, but perlite or a mixture of perlite and sand is generally better. My way is to cut the stems between every other node, resulting in two-node lengths. They don't root at the nodes so it's not important that a node be in the rooting medium, but it is important that you have at least one node to sprout, two seems a safer bet. As Passifloras keep growing throughout the season, take a long cutting, which will give you a variety of ages. The general rule applies, try and get growth which is hardening off but not completely woody, and also avoid too-new growth which crushes easily between your fingers. Cut off any flower buds. I generally cut off all the leaves as well, as they only cause water loss if you have to hold them in a vase for a time before sticking the cuttings; and especially any damaged leaves (as when you've packed them in a bag and left them in a suitcase for 36 hours) will likely rot in the rooting chamber anyway. I generally get roots with no rooting hormone but a mild one won't hurt. For an easy homemade setup, I take a large commercial water bottle and cut it almost all around. I then ut about 4 inches of perlite in the bottom and wet it, but there should not be water pooled in the bottom. I close the top after sticking my cuttings, but leave the cap off the top so there is some air circulation (the cut edge also offers some ventilation) and then put it in a bright area but out of direct sunlight; even with the top open it could get dangerously hot if it got direct sun. The cuttings can take from 1 to several weeks to root, so be patient. You'll know when they have taken as you'll see vigorous new growth; but they may grow even before rooting as Passifloras seem have boundless energy.

If you live in an area where your plants can grow outdoors year-round, you can plant them directly into the soil, but keep in mind that they can be rampant, and if there is any P. caerulea or incarnata in the mix, they'll likely sucker as well. They're not as bad as kudzu, but a happy passiflora will gleefully cover whatever support it finds, and when that is full, it will find a new one. But they're forgiving and you can generally prune them back pretty severely without serious consequence.

Next - the other plants besides Passifloras!

1 comment:

Yumi's Blog said...

Interesting flower. I never knew Passifloras before, but it is really lovely. Thanks for sharing this informative post about "California Dreamin' I: Passionate about Passifloras" I enjoyed reading it.

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