Tag Archives: tropical

Plant Lovin’ – Passionfruit

29 Sep

This is a plant that I have wanted in my garden for as long as I can remember.  Not only does it  provide you with a yummy harvest of fruit, it also has some of the most spectacular flowers I have ever seen.  Passionfruit grows as a vine, and has so many endearing features.  The leaves are green and glossy, it is hardy, I love the spiral tendrils it uses to cling onto things, and the fruit and flowers are unbelievable.

I have great memories of the passionfruit vine we had trailing over our fence in the terrace house I grew up in.  There was the excitement at seeing the flowers bloom and then the intolerable wait as the fruit grew and then turned from green to purple.  The fruit always tasted better when you had picked it yourself, as opposed to the store bought variety.

Passionfruit not only provides you with a great climbing vine that will cover an ugly wall or fence, but it will provide you with a key ingredient for my summertime desert of choice, the ever Australian Pavlova.

So here’s the Passionfruit low down…

Name: Passiflora edulis – There are a heap of different varieties so check out what’s available at your local nursery to find the one that’s right for you.

Description: A vigorous and fast growing vine that loves to climb on any sturdy structure.  You’ll need to provide it with a fence, wall or lattice to let it develop to it’s full potential.  The vine has large glossy green leaves and delicate spiral tendrils that help it climb.  The flowers produced by the passionfruit vine are spectacular and would probably be the best thing about this plant if it weren’t for the fact they are followed by a yummy harvest of delicious passionfruit.

Passionfruit leaves and fruit. Photo from http://www.infonet-biovision.org

What you’ll love about them: The fruit, the flowers, the fact that the vine can and will cover whatever you want it to.  There is so much to love about the passionfruit.  Passionfruit vines are really easy to take care of and will continually give back more than you give them.

If you’re in the right location and you give them plenty of water and food, you should see a harvest of fruit within the first 18 months, and then regularly after that.  This is one of those “memory” kind of plants.  Everyone that I know who had a Passionfruit vine when they were growing up remembers it fondly.  Great for kids, great for cooks, and great for the lazy gardener – maximum impact with minimum effort!

What they love:  Passionfruit loves the sun.  Plant it in a sunny position, give it’s roots free-draining soil, some food and plenty of water and it will reward you with loads of it’s yummy fruit.  You will need to provide a structure like a fence, wall or trellis for it to climb on, and good well drained soil with plenty of organic matter.  They love plenty to drink, so keep the water up, and in terms of food, don’t feed them with too much nitrogen, compost and chook manure are perfect.

Ongoing maintenance is easy, they like a trim every spring, so as winter turns into spring, trim off around 30cm.  When they are young prune off the top of the vine (the leader) and this will help make the vine spread laterally and cover whatever ugly garden feature you want hidden.

The not so great bits:  The vine is vigorous and can get away from you, though this could also be a good thing if you want something screened well.  Passionfruit is only relatively short lived – 5-7 years, so you will need to replace it fairly regularly, though it is fast growing so it won’t take long to replace itself.

If you prefer something a bit more home grown: There are no native Passionfruits, so there isn’t anything that you can directly substitute, but if it’s the vine you are looking for you could try a Pandorea sp. it is fairly hardy and vigorous and has lovely flowers.

Yum! Passionfruit and Pavlova! Photo from http://paulineadamek.com/pages/CookbookPage.html

Anyone feel like a slice of Pav???

Sam

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Plant Lovin’ – Hibiscus

16 May
Hibiscus petals - National Georgraphic

Close up of hibiscus petals - photograph by Amy White and Al Petteway from the photography.nationalgeographic.com website

OK, so this isn’t a plant that I’d normally be giving much air time to – I guess it’s nice in a Hawaiian shirt kinda way, but seeing a couple of Hibiscus bushes in full bloom was the single plant loving highlight of my week last week.  You see, Sydney was extremely cold last week – and yes I know, for those of you in more arctic climates, 15 degrees isn’t considered cold, but for us more temperate dwellers, we were freezing our @$$es off, particularly since it hit without much warning.

So why did the Hibiscus feature in my rugged up and heater buying week? On my drive to drop the Drama Queen to child care there are a number of hibiscus plants in full bloom, looking their most tropical, and exuding a definite Cairns feel to an otherwise Kosciuszko kinda week.  I’m sure the area around them would have to have felt a few degrees warmer, just because they were so sunny looking.

Typical Hibiscus flower

So here’s the Hibiscus low down…

Name: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis – There are a heap of different varieties so check out what’s available at your local nursery to find the one that’s right for you.

Description: Generally a large dense shrub with spectacular flowers and large glossy green leaves, though as there are so many varieties, colour and flower type as well as shrub size can vary greatly.  If you’re keen on including a Hibiscus in your garden, make sure you read the nursery tag well, to ensure you get the right plant for your space.

A little taste of tropical bliss....

What you’ll love about them: You’ll always feel like you’re on a tropical island when they’re in flower.  I don’t know about you, but Hibiscus flowers always make me smile.  How can you not love the plant that has featured on a thousand bad hawaiian shirts and is the iconic print of the must have ’80’s Okanui board shorts?

The shrub  itself is dense and glossy and the larger shrubs can be great for screening off areas of the garden (providing you have a garden large enough to need screening!)

The other bonus of the Hibiscus is the play and imagination value.  Turn a Hibiscus flower upside down and you immediately have a gorgeous “princess” dress that any little girl will be over the moon with.

What they love: Sun! that one probably goes without saying.  These plants are tropical, they love to pretend they’re sunning themselves by a gorgeous tropical beach – which is probably what you really want to be doing if you’re planting yourself a Hibiscus bush. They like a good humus rich soil with lots of food.  Basically this plant wants to pretend it’s on a perfect summer holiday – warm weather, good food, plenty to drink.  If you want to get serious about planting and growing hibiscus – check out australianhibiscus.com – the website for the Australian Hibiscus Society

The not so great bits: Look, to be honest, the best part of this plant are its flowers – Yes, it’s a really nice big dense shrub, but if you only have a small space I can think of a heap of other plants I’d be using before I’d plant a Hibiscus.  The shrub can also get a bit scrappy looking if you don’t keep it pruned, particularly if they are under stress – e.g. not enough water, a bit too cold etc.   They also don’t like getting their toes cold. So, if you’re somewhere that gets super frosty they’re probably not the right plant for you.

If you prefer something a bit more home grown: Look out for the Native Hibiscus, Hibiscus heterophyllus.  It has equally showy and impressive flowers, though not with the text book Hibiscus look.  It’s native to the east coast of Australia from Queensland through to South Coast New South Wales, and is great at attracting butterflies and honeyeaters, which is particularly cool if you’ve got kids or just get a kick out of watching nature at play.

Native hibiscus photo

Native Hibiscus flower - photo from about.nsw.gov.au/encyclopedia/article/native-hibiscus/

Anyone feel like a spot of Hula dancing? Pass me that Pina Colada!

Sam

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