OK, I admit it . . . it’s been a long time since I posted my last blog. However, I am offering a good reason for my absence: it was a splendid summer here on the tundra, and I gardened like a guy who was experiencing his first full growing season as a retiree, totally immersed in the joys of horticulture. Over the next few months my plan is to share with you on this site many of my recent gardening experiences and thoughts. Think of it as an extended gardening-themed vacation in a not-so-far-away land, not so long ago.
While the above picture was taken today (November 19, 2019), I think it aptly recalls the past and conjures the future. Before I tell you the name of this plant and show you what it can do, let’s delve into what the picture and the plant represent to me.
First, let’s remember to look beyond the identity of this plant and ponder the image itself. While I’m not even remotely pretending to be a great visual artist or poet, I will honestly tell you that I view recording images as a way of capturing and expressing emotions and memories (and, more mundanely, information). I often find myself reaching for my phone to take a few (or many) pictures, not just to have records of a plant or other subject, but to help preserve a thought or feeling or perhaps to make a reminder to look into/do- something later. So as I was heading out to check today’s mail, I noticed the attractively backlit foliage and other attributes of a plant that I propagated a few months ago, and I decided a photo of it would make a good starting point for a reboot-worthy blog post.
Which brings this account to an exploration of one of my personal Joys of Horticulture: propagating plants. I have been making more plants (to describe the term “propagation” perhaps inelegantly, but accurately and succinctly) since my earliest days as a gardener. I never tire of the thrill and satisfaction of watching a seed or cutting or other plant part transform into an entire plant, ready to be planted out or given away or sold or selected as a bit of germplasm for continuity through space and time. Hmm, there’s another blog post just begging to be created: “germplasm for continuity through space and time.” Stay tuned.
But I will briefly address that (you might regard as) spacey concept here. The pictured plant represents a living thing that I’m intending to nurture somewhere in my garden next year, because to an inveterate gardener like me, there’s always next year. I will be able to enjoy this plant in my summer garden in 2020 because in 2019 I rooted a stem cutting from the magnificent parent plant as insurance against the parent not making it through winter in my front room. Also, I’ll have a much smaller plant that I can raise into a new parent plant to replace its parent. It’s the circle of life, you know, plus it’s a stark reality that the current parent plant, assuming it survives the winter and grows even more exuberantly than it did this past summer, will simply be too big to manage once the 2020 growing season draws to an end. So in this example, propagation = backup plan.
I’m curious if anyone out there thinks the introductory image is vaguely familiar. Well, those of you who know my last book effort, The Encyclopedia of Container Plants, might recall the photos on pages 256 – 258 that accompany the entry on Passiflora (passionflowers). Yep, my mind immediately went back to that entry as I noticed the plant that prompted me to take the image that inspired this post.
And now I can reveal the identity of the plant: it is Passiflora alato-caerulea, or what I always offer as “the preserved-ginger-scented passionflower” when someone requests a common name. A cumbersome moniker, yes, but precisely descriptive and olfactorily evocative of sushi and several summers here on the tundra. This is, without reservation, my favorite passionflower, notable for its gorgeous, dreamily scented flowers and easy, vigorous growth. I’m looking forward to enjoying another replay of its virtues.
In case you’re wondering, here’s the parent plant as it looks today, dominating a section of my front room, where many plants in my collection spend winter (in other words, six months, from mid-October to mid-April, if the weather gods allow). Before spring comes, this plant will almost certainly be leafless and trimmed back extensively, but for now it’s still lushly green and comfortably chilling, patiently waiting to wake up and put on another show.