Friday, 12 October 2012

Mimosa and passion flowers

The wisteria was not the only plant that seemed intent on taking over the courtyard. Both the mimosa and the passion flower have made pretty goods attempts at doing so.

The mimosa was a “reader offer” in our daily newspaper and we thought it would be nice to have a plant in bloom during the more dreary winter months, so we bought one. We knew that mimosa is usually found around the Mediterranean, well to the south of our village, but we reasoned that if it was being sold by an English newspaper, presumably for planting in England, our village should be far enough south.

The hole from which Chris, Alan and I had extracted the lump of concrete had not been filled in, and this proved ideal for the mimosa’s root-ball. I backfilled with compost to give it a good start, but I really need not have bothered. That plant didn’t need a better start than it would get from the earth in the courtyard.

Jacques, when we told him, was very sceptical about the prospects for the plant’s survival. He thought we were too far north for it, but agreed that as we had planted it is a sheltered spot, it might survive the winter.

It was just over three feet high when it was planted in the spring and, in our ignorance, we expected it to grow to about six feet by the time it was mature. When we were next at the house, we were astonished to find that the mimosa had grown and was now level with the top of the downstairs windows. Three months later, and it was halfway up the upstairs bedroom window. This was no six foot shrub. Then we discovered that the mimosa is actually quite a tall tree.

I worried that we had planted this monster too close to the house and that it might damage the foundations until I realised that, having been built in 1840, the house probably had no foundations to be damaged. The walls were two feet thick, so they should be safe. Next spring I discovered that I needn’t have worried at all: the mimosa had not survived the winter. Mrs S was a little peeved, to put it mildly, as a friend had also bought one of these plants and it was still going strong in England. And just to rub salt in the wound, we discovered two other mimosas in the village.

The passion flower also did very will during the first summer. We had collected several passion flower fruits from a friend’s plant several years before and had grown plants of our own from the seeds. Some of these had been planted in our own garden in England and some we had given to friends, including Alan. We wanted to hide the ugly breeze block wall of the sheds and set about growing some more passion fruit plants to do the job. Unfortunately, none of these survived, but Alan was able to come to the rescue with a pot of seedlings.

Just to be on the safe side, I planted three or four of those seedlings against the shed wall. By mid-summer, they had grown so well that we had to cut our way through the plant to open the shed door, and the plants had spread nearly halfway across the courtyard. In the autumn, we pruned the plants quite severely, but by the following spring, they all looked as though we had overdone it.

Despite my scepticism, Mrs S was determined to rescue those plants. I’m not entirely sure just what she did, but I did notice that the level of the orange juice went down dramatically. Whatever the secret, it worked, and once again we had to hack our way through to the shed door by mid-July. But at least the passion flower has made a good job of hiding that wall.

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