The Vine That Ate The Mailbox

Guest Article for the Tallahassee Democrat

October 25, 2013 untitled

By Pam Sawyer

 

When I first moved to Tallahassee twenty years ago, I noticed this attractive evergreen vine with fragrant white flowers blooming on mailboxes in my neighborhood. I discovered it was called Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). It was beautiful! So I bought one and planted it right next to my mailbox. That was how I used to garden. It was so much fun, so spontaneous.

 

I could not believe how well it grew. One day the mailman (it was a man) left a note in my box that I needed to cut back my beautiful vine. I was indignant, then embarrassed. It had sort of taken over the mailbox. So I tried to stay on top of the pruning and avoid getting another reprimand, I mean, note from the mail carrier. After years and years of pruning three and four times a year, I began to resent that stupid vine, and finally I dug it up and threw it away.

 

Later on I was thankful I had not planted a Chinese wisteria or a cat’s claw vine. Those I would still be trying to dig up. I admit, vines can be a lot of trouble, but they also add so much depth to a garden. They make a garden seem like it’s been there a long time. They are lush and verdant, opulent and old-fashioned. To me they are irresistible. Over the years I have grown and still grow as many as I can manage to prune.

 

Annual vines are the easiest. They sometimes re-seed, but they do die in winter, so there is very little pruning to do. Three that I have had good luck with are heavenly blue morning glory (Ipomoea tricolor), purple hyacinth bean (Lablab purpurea) and nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus). All three grow in average soil in full or part sun and are easy to grow from seed. Heavenly blue and hyacinth bean should be planted in spring. Nasturtiums can be planted now and will last until a hard freeze or maybe all winter in a protected spot. All three can be grown on a fence or trellis, as a groundcover or cascading from a hanging basket. Regular water, well-drained soil, and very little fertilizer are all they need.

 

Heavenly blue morning glory is by far the showiest. Morning glories are notorious for re-seeding, but in ten years or so of growing this morning glory, I have never had it re-seed. In summer and fall it produces lots of four inch sky blue trumpet flowers on 8 to 12 foot vines with heart-shaped leaves. It is truly something to see.

 

Thomas Jefferson grew purple hyacinth bean at Monticello. The seeds look like miniature Oreo cookies. This vine looks great on a trellis or fence displaying its light purple flowers and magenta seed pods. Apparently the pods are used in Asian cooking, although there are a lot of warnings online that they are poisonous. I guess you better not eat them. I have eaten the tender young pods many times and I think I am still here. Some days I’m not so sure.

 

For a good edible vine with a peppery taste, try nasturtiums. There are mounding types and climbing types in yellow, orange, red and cream. The climbing types grow to about six feet and offer attractive and delicious two inch blossoms. I like to plant them in the vegetable garden as a groundcover beneath the collards and kale.

 

Tune in here next week to read about the many perennial vines I have subdued, I mean, grown in my garden. In the meantime, get out there and dig. You’ll feel better.

 

Pam Sawyer is a Master Gardener with Leon County/UF IFAS Extension. For more information about gardening in our area, visit the UF/ IFAS Leon County Extension website at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu. For gardening questions, email us at mastgard@leoncountyfl.gov

0



Posted: October 29, 2013


Category: Natural Resources
Tags: October - December 2014, Trachelospermum Jasminoides


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories

Skip to toolbar