Blooming in my garden today…

3 08 2009

Two passion flowers on the vine this morning…in our zone 7 area, passion flowers must be treated as an annual. I bought this vine from Home Depot and bring it indoors right before the first frost, put it just inside my office patio doors (where it gets filtered light and I keep it watered) and take it out again in spring. I’ve been able to keep it going strong for four consecutive years now—not bad for my $20 investment, huh?

I noticed that passion flower is spelled as one word and as two words all over the web—by experts and novice gardeners alike. In past postings, I’ve spelled it as one word. Which do you prefer? Are they both correct?

There are more than 500 known species and several hundred hybrids of passiflora. Most are vine-flowering, although some are shrubs, and a few are herbaceous. Just nine species are found in the U.S. and Southern Asia has the most native species–17. The most common species in the southeastern U.S. is the Maypop, Passiflora incarnata. Its edible fruit is sweet, yellow, the size of a chicken’s egg, and few pests bother it. It is the larval food of a number of butterfly species and important to local wildlife. Carpenter bees are important pollinators of maypops.

For more information on passion flowers:

Passiflora Online is a comprehensive website with growing tips, FAQs, plant ID, hybrid and species images, pollinators, and much more.

Plants in Motion has videos of a passion flower in bloom and also short clips of bees visiting the flowers.

Tradewinds Fruit has a great database of passion flower blossoms. Click on the “related species” section on the left of the site to see a wide variety of passion flower plants.

See more of my passion flower photos in the links below:

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.



At Green Spring Gardens today…

2 08 2009

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.



2 08 2009

I photographed this Nicotiana flower a few weeks ago at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia. Nicotiana, an annual plant, is a member of the tobacco family. Also known as Tobacco Flower, Flowering Tobacco, Jasmine Tobacco and Ornamental Tobacco, this most-fragrant-at-night plant is native to warm tropical and sub-tropical areas of North and South America. Although this plant is considered an ornamental, it does contain high concentrations of nicotine. The trumpet shaped flowers attract hummingbirds (and ants, as evidenced in the photo below). Nicotiana is easy to grow from seed, begins blooming in early summer, and will rebloom if deadheaded. The five pointed florets bloom in red, white, pink, maroon, rose, yellow and lavender. The plant is poisonous, so keep away from children and pets.

Whenever I think of tobacco (the smoking and chewing kind), I’m reminded of the summer my sister Kelley, and my cousin Deanna and I were paid 5 cents a stick to unstring tobacco leaves for my Uncle Roscoe on his farm in Georgia. The dried tobacco leaves (or ‘backer, as it was called in the south) were strung two across along a stick that was about 3-4 feet long. We were charged with untying the leaves and putting them in piles. The sticks were hung from the rafters in a barn that also housed Roscoe’s beautiful black stallion and a few other horses—most memorable was a slow-moving, spotted Shetland pony named Champ. When we rode horses (never with our parent’s blessings), I inevitably ended up with Champ. His incredibly slow gait thwarted any fantasy I had to look like that model with the wind flowing through her hair as she galloped through a field of daisies on the package of some feminine hygiene product. My sister got to ride a horse aptly named “Shotgun.”

The three of us worked for a few hours (in a hot barn in the Georgia heat) and I remember making barely a couple of dollars for my efforts. I’m not sure what minimum wage was when I was 12 years old, but I’m pretty sure we were paid well under that amount that day! We didn’t care—we just wanted enough to buy Cokes from the vending machine he had outside the riding arena (complete with bleachers for an audience). We thought it was so cool they had their own outdoor coke machine. The soda came out in the cutest little bottles and I think they were just 10 cents each. My cousins were all avid competitive horse riders and had a slew of trophies on display in their living room—so many that one time they gave each of us one (not that we had earned it, but who doesn’t love a shiny trophy?) and they didn’t even miss them!

And while on the subject of Georgia tobacco…there’s an interesting and very detailed account here about “Growing ‘Backer on the Wiregrass Plain.”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.