Sunday, November 25, 2012

Love me tendril

Almost everyone is a sucker for baby animal photos – lion and tiger cubs are the cutest little tackers, and I've even got a soft spot for baby hippos and rhinos. Now we all know the fearsome beauties these cute little baby animals will grow into, and it's pretty much the same story with today's baby plant photo. A cute little passionfruit vine tendril, its first, looking for something to cling to and climb up.

And yes, I know what this cute little baby is going to grow into: an animal of a plant that will roar up a wall in no time, covering it in greenery, looking for roof eaves to climb into and other plants to monster. Call me an optimistic fool, but I'm hoping to become a passionfruit tamer who'll bring baskets of delicious, tangy black fruit into the kitchen for my passionfruit-loving gal to enjoy. (I might even eat a couple of them, too.)

Another of nature's little wonders, the touchy-
feely tendril seeking out something to cling to.

For the record, this is a seedling of the common
Norfolk Island black passionfruit. One important
little point of note is that it's NOT a grafted
seedling. Unfortunately, the rootstock used in
grafted passionfruit sold in the last two decades
proved to be too, too vigorous, sending up suckers
everywhere and generally making a nuisance of
itself. Passionfruit are susceptible to a root disease
called Phytophthera (it attacks grapevines, too)
hence the resort to using grafted rootstock to get
around the problem. So, with seedlings there is
an element of 'fingers crossed', which I don't mind.
Now, a little background is needed. This is what used to cover
the wall where I have planted the passionfruit. This was a
creeping fig, Ficus pumila, and it, too was an animal of a
thing which I thoroughly failed to tame. It needed constant
clipping back, wasps loved it as a site for nests (nice to come
across when you're on a ladder clipping it back!) and it
got under the eaves of my neighbour's garage. Bad plant!

Then one stormy summer's day, a really stormy
windy horrible day, the whole creeping fig came
down in one enormous clump, smashing into
my baby lemon tree, which miraculously
survived all that crushing weight. I let the fig
die down, then rubbish removal guys did the rest.

While the creeping fig was a supposedly 'self-clinging' creeper
which attached itself to the wall with suckers, a passionfruit
vine needs something to hold onto, so I have set up a frame
of thick wire threaded through bolts sunk into the brick wall. 

Though it's almost impossible to see, there's a rectangular
wire frame on that bare wall now.

The 'central' wall bolt is like the hub of a railway system. All
the wires sit about an inch out from the walls, and the wires
aren't perfectly taut either, so hopefully that'll be enough for
all those passionfruit tendrils to cling to and for the vine
itself to snake in and out of.

The vine itself has been in the ground for
about six weeks now, and those chewed leaves
you can see were chomped by a harmless
leaf-cutter bee. After that little bee had taken
enough for its nest-building, the plant has
grown well without any signs of chomping
by other suspects such as caterpillars,
katydids and grasshoppers. 

Finally, the top of the plant is close to the
wire frame, and the first tendril is snaking its
way up towards it (with some help from me!).
Passionfruit usually do well in Sydney, so I'm hoping that's what mine will do, too. They can be a bit temperamental at times. Being tropical in origin, apparently they don't love sudden cold snaps or cold winds whistling around them. That brick wall where I am growing my vine faces west, so it should be warm year-round, especially in winter when a bit of extra warmth is probably very welcome.

Time will tell whether I can manage to keep this rampant animal of a vine under control or not, but at least I have the baby photos of when it was just a little cutie!


patientgardener said...

how wonderful to be able to grow passionfruit. Here in the UK we get the flowers but not the fruit and they are often glasshouse plants. At least you are starting out knowing you will have to tame the beast - always a good start

dirtgirl said...

Good Luck Jamie with your new 'baby'. We planted a passionfruit 7 yrs ago, moved it after 18 months as it wasn't performing. It is still producing kilos of fruit each year even though we were told its lifespan is usually 4 yrs. The rain last Summer upset it somewhat and we only had less than 10 kgs of fruit. The previous year was 35 kg. It looks as if this year is set to be a bumper year, once again it is loaded. Apart from the gorgeous fruit, it covers an ugly carport left over from our old house next door. Every year I set to and hack it back by one third and it literally just keeps on keeping on. We also get light frosts here SW of Sydney, but it doesn't bother it.

Haluna Happy said...

My Australian father planted a passion vine on our sunny kitchen wall in Oxfordshire and it produced lots of flowers, but no fruit. Now in Sw Sydney I'm dreaming of decorating newly- revealed neighbour's wall down the 'dead' side of our house, but the wall is totally on his land so don't think I could drive bolts into it. Do you think it's ok to run the wires between the boundary posts in a simpler chequered pattern rather than that hub and spoke design, Jamie?

Also there is no bed there at the moment just concrete mess that used to run up to our old boundary fence of wood, and pavers on the other side of the now removed fence. So which is better - somehow fixing something to contain soil, for a raised bed, or wd the vine survive in long rectangular pots? How much depth wd the roots need?

Jamie said...

Thanks for your comments, Helen and Dirtgirl. And Dirtgirl, I really hope mine lasts as long as yours...

Haluna Happy: the wires between the boundary posts should work, if they're stout enough. Just remember that a mature passionfruit vine is heavy!

As far as the pot/bed goes, I'm no passionfruit expert at all, but generally a vine in a pot isn't a great idea, as they'll need a stack of watering to stay alive, especially in hot weather. They'd be a lot better off in the ground. A raised bed is a good idea, as long as the size of the bed itself is big enough.

Good luck!