Spring forward!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010



Cardinal beneath the vines.

Look no farther than the vine pergola to know that spring has arrived in South Florida. The shower-of-orchids and queen’s wreath are happily announcing the season, as the cardinals are busy looking for nesting sites within them.  Shower-of-orchids is Congea tomentosa and it is tumbling over the


pergola like cotton candy. Light pink bracts surround the small white flowers of this Southeast Asian vine. If you look closely, the little flowers hold out delicate red stamens, but it’s from a distance that this woody vine creates a beautiful show.

Queen's wreath.

Petrea volubilis, or queen’s wreath, has an equally lovely appeal, but in lavender-blue. The corolla is purple, while the calyx is blue to lavender. Early on, the corolla floats to earth, leaving the calyx behind, so the display fades but remains a sweet vision. This vine is from the West Indies and Mexico through Central America, and is not fussy about its care.

Both vines may be pruned back after flowering. The Petrea will flower several times throughout the summer, but the spring show is best.  Insects do not seem to bother these vines, which take full sun and can be propagated by cuttings. 

Another vine caught my eye, although its clusters of flowers are rather

Oxera pulchella has delicate flowers.

shy and delicate. This is the Oxera pulchella from New Caledonia. Flowers on the ground actually caused me to look up and find these pretty flowers, which look as if they could be made of delicate porcelain. It’s a vine new to me, though it clearly has been well established on the pergola. (Mary Collins tells me the vine will be sold at the spring plant sale April 24 & 25, so look for it.) White thunbergia also is producing pretty white flowers with yellow throats. From Africa, Thunbergia erecta ‘Alba’ is the less often seen cousin to clock vine, which is a luscious purple.

Vines can be useful in creating dramatic entryways, by growing them over arches or trellises. They require moderate amounts of water and fertilizer, as well as pruning, but they can be as lovely as anything in the garden.