Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Fall Foliage of Hardy Passion Vine

Passiflora-lutea-Tetrapanax-papyrifer-101714-640 

 

Some plants—the tetrapanax at the center of the picture above, say—don't respond to the imminence of Winter. It continues to produce stunning immense leaves at full tilt until frost brings everything to a halt. Passiflora lutea, however, readily responds to climate cues of shorter days and chillier nights—and does so with style. Its unusual bat-wing foliage doesn't just drop before hard frost; first it changes color from mid-green to bright yellow.

 

All Summer, the contrast with the tetrapanax foliage was just of scale and texture. For a few weeks in Fall, it's also a contrast of color. Given the intensity of the scale-and-texture contrast alone, amping it up with color makes this pairing of ricepaper plant with passion vine one of the highlights of the entire garden year.

 

The juxtaposition of a plant that is carefully attuned to the season with one that seems to be oblivious to it is both dramatic as well as curious. Each species is fully hardy for me, and both are thriving by any measure. But, although there's no telling whether Winter will be mild or brutal, the passion vine is nonetheless packing it in completely: Not only will it soon shed its already-yellowed foliage, its stems will then die back to below ground, too. The tetrapanax leaves will stay green until hard frost. Then they will be shed without any grace, let alone change in color: They turn brown and drop. The sudden cold will seem to have caught the plant quite by surprise. 

 

These two species' contrasting behaviors arise, in part, from their flowering cycles. Passiflora lutea always blooms on stems it grows that same season and, by Fall, a given stem has, well, had all the fun a plant can have: sprouting, growing by leaps and bounds, leafing out, flowering, going to seed, changing to Fall foliage, and dying back to the ground. I'd be ready for a long Winter's nap, too.

 

Tetrapanax papyrifer flowers only when it has had a long growing season and at least one of its stems remains viable through the coming Winter. Similar to most hydrangeas, ricepaper plant is unable to form flowers on first-year stems arising directly from the roots; instead, they are formed at the tips of growth arising next year from wood that was formed during the current year. So this subtropical tree's seeming denial of New England's certain arrival of cold and snow can be seen as a strategy, not ignorance: The longer a given stem grows in any one season, the thicker, taller, and more Winter-tolerant it can become. And that increases the chance that, next season, new sprouts could arise from that old stem. If this Winter is mild and the next one is late, then this species' Thanksgiving flowering might just occur.

 

Even if it doesn't, tetrapanax still comes out ahead: The longer it can grow this season, the deeper and farther it can extend its legendarily far-reaching roots. They produce sprouts all along their considerable length. (New sprouts emerge from the dirt floor of my basement, for heavens sake, while the champion "long ranger" emerged nearly twenty feet away from the mother clump, out in the garden at the far side of the terrace.) Who knows? One of those shoots might arise in a location with an unusually mild microclimate, making flowering all the more likely.

 

This plant's seeming lack of response to Fall's warning that "Hey there, serious weather is right around the corner. No, really." might, instead, be that of a creature that is hardworking, flexible, and opportunistic, not oblivious—and, because of it, nearly indomitable. 

 

Here's how to grow this hardy passion vine.

Here's how billowing and graceful the curtain of foliage and flowers looks in late Summer. 

Here's how this hardy passion vine looks when it can scramble right through the titanic foliage of the colony of ricepaper plant.

 
 
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