The hybrid purple passionflower vine (below) perished over the winter. Last year, it grew vigorously to the top of a wrought iron cage and into the neighboring paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysanthus) by summer’s end, and there were many small flowers, but perhaps this spot on the low side of the garden was too wet through the winter. Or, the vine was not cold hardy enough. There are many varieties of passionflower, from ones suited only to the tropics to natives that are dependable to temperatures below zero, and I depended on the supplier’s hardiness information to be correct. In any case, wherever you are purchasing a passionflower, it is prudent to take care to have it properly identified if you are intending it to survive the winter outdoors .
Two native passionflowers in drier settings are doing fine. The native purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata, below) returns dependably every year, though after a particularly cold winter it might decide to hibernate until late May before sprouting. After our extraordinarily warm winter and early spring a year ago, the vine broke ground much earlier than is usual, but still it flowered in early August.
This year, with cold temperatures extending far into April the passionflower emerged six weeks later, but it began flowering earlier, in mid July when Japanese beetles were at their peak. It became obvious very quickly that passionflowers are a beetle favorite, so of the initial buds that were set, no flowers fully emerged before they were ravaged. Fortunately, in early August new flower buds are being set, so now that the beetles are mostly gone they should bloom normally.
The native yellow passionflower (Passiflora lutea, above) is not bothered at all by the beetles, though they began flowering just as the beetles numbers declined so I cannot be certain. The yellow blooms are quite small, and I’ve planted the vine on the back side of the large koi pond so that it’s quite difficult to get close to without squeezing dangerously past the butterfly covered Joe Pye weed and balancing on boulders at the pond’s edge. I teeter, wobble, and fall without much provocation anyway, so I’m reluctant to take my chances on too many close ups.
The yellow passionflower vine seems to be nearly as vigorous as the purple, though its stems are smaller in diameter. It is climbing through several hydrangeas and into the ‘Okame’ cherry that looms over head, and I’m unconcerned that the slight weight of the vine will result in any damage to the shrubs or trees that it climbs into. Since the vine dies to the ground each winter it should never become bothersome like the akebia and wisteria vines that I still curse long after they’ve been chopped out.
On occasion, a bloom of the purple passionflower will be followed by a rounded, lemon-sized green fruit. The maypop (above) is edible, though I’ve never been able to tell when the seemingly hollow fruit is ripe to try it. With the second round of flower buds ready to open, perhaps I’ll have another opportunity to test the fruit in another month or so.