Thursday, September 13, 2012

DEAR IRIS Hyacinth bean vine gets ‘wow’

By Gerri Lyon, Master Gardener intern | Sep 13, 2012
PHOTO SUBMITTED The hyacinth bean vine, a really fast grower, has large, heart-shaped deep-green leaves and sickle-shaped, burgundy colored bean pods.

While spending the day in the Amanas with a friend last fall, I made a great discovery. At the entry area to a shop, grew a thick, heavily foliaged vine with lovely, purple flowers that looked similar to pea blossoms. But what really caught my eye were stems of glossy, burgundy curved pods. It was labeled, Hyacinth Bean Vine. This interesting specimen was added to my “imagine” list for this years’ garden areas. As I looked for seeds, most catalogs said there was a limited supply. Fortunately, my order arrived!
The lablab purpureus is a fast, really fast grower. I started the seeds in pots, and transplanted them to the ground in three different locations. The earliest bloomers are in full sun, the nicest foliaged plants are receiving six hours of sun. I had concerns in mid-August about flowering, but finally buds appeared and all the plantings are in full bloom at last! Many seedpods are setting on. I will let them fully mature and dry for sharing and planting in 2013.
Hyacinth beans are used as a common food source in Africa and Asia. My research tells me that the beans are poisonous when mishandled. The beans should be boiled two times with a water change to be safely eaten. The flowers can be eaten, also. Honestly, I appreciate them as an ornamental, attractive vine in the gardens with no edible purpose intended. They are a wholesome food source for hummingbirds and butterflies. Hummingbirds are bypassing the syrup feeders to fill up at the hyacinth bean vines! Almost nonstop feeding occurs for the birds, but I haven’t seen many butterflies.
In the Discovery Gardens Pergola at the Iowa State Fair, the Master Gardeners planted this vine. It had covered the pergola entirely with its really fast growth and was just showing buds. Many admirers had gathered with questions on blooming time.
I watered all of the vines because of the intense heat and drought. I used liquid Miracle Gro when I fertilized. Be sure to give the vines a strong place to grow like a woven wire fence, large trellis that is secured, pergola, etc. It will grow 10 to 15 feet high if given the space! If pods are allowed to mature and remain on the vine after frost, I feel confident that volunteer plants will grow next spring. I won’t disturb that area by hoeing or tilling to allow growth.
The bean stems with pods are a popular addition to fresh flower arrangements. The burgundy color adds a punch while the sickle shape of the pods adds the unusual touch. The color is delightful in fall bouquets.
This vine has been a wonderful addition to each planted area. Blooming started at a time when I needed the color! It has large, heart shaped leaves that are a deep green. Did I mention how fast it grows? Hyacinth bean vine is a great performer that gets a WOW response from visitors!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

DEAR IRIS Passion Flowers pop in early May

By GERRI LYON, Master Gardener intern | Sep 06, 2012
PHOTO SUBMITTED Passion Flower is a vine that produces “May Pops,” so-called because of the way the flowers pop out in early May.

Delightful, fragrant, stunning, unusual, beautiful, and amazing are some of the words used to describe Passiflora incarnate. Passiflora, or Passion Flower, is a vine that produces “May Pops”, so-called because of the way the flowers pop out in early May. The Passion Flower is a common roadside weed in the southeastern United States.
May Pops were renamed by missionaries in the 1500s; they believed that several parts of these exotic flowers represent Christ’s crucifixion. Ten petals represent 10 apostles present at the crucifixion, Peter and James being absent. The corona or crown represents the crown of thorns or thought to be emblematic of the halo. Five anthers are suggestive of the five wounds or emblematic of hammers used to drive nails. Three stigmas are representative of the three nails piercing the hands and the feet. Now I am really impressed and understand the reverence to these flowers. It has become my favorite “new” find for this gardening season.
My Passion Flower is growing in the ground, next to a potted purple fountain grass that has a background trellis. It has managed to intertwine around the grass and trellis, covering the front and back. I have coaxed it off the ground although I believe it would continue growing in the rocks. I now have two new plants which explains why it is a weed elsewhere! I’m watching attentively for the new plants to bloom. My plan is to transplant these new starts and give them a home in the field house for the winter.
As I researched the May Pops, I discovered many colors and variations. Some varieties develop fruit. So far I have no fruit, just fragrant, lovely blossoms that last one full day. The plant itself is deep green with pointed, veined leaves. They need sun exposure of six hours in fertile, well-drained soil. I have fertilized regularly with a 2-1-3 solid type fertilizer. Diluted liquid type (Miracle Gro) would produce more foliage and fewer blossoms.
The Passion Flower is widely used for medicinal purposes from anxiety relief to lowering blood pressure. No wonder I feel so happy to have “found” this amazing plant! It’s a real pleasure each day to see how many flowers open. Fragrance lingers at various times attracting me and many bumble bees! The bees bury themselves in the throat for a feast and leave acting dizzy and full!
Conversations have been interesting when friends and family have visited. Apparently, Passion Flower is not common here; no one else has known its history of reverence or its name. With its many unique qualities, at times it looks like it came from outer space!
If you enjoy unusual finds in your yardscape, add the Passion Flower to your “imagine” list for 2013. Even on the hottest of days of this summer past, May Pops endured.

­­ Gerri Lyon is a Master Gardener intern.