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: Madeira Vine Triumphs up the Tripod

It's no surprise that Madeira vine can twine to the top of just about anything. Scaling my twenty-foot tripod during a New England summer is nothing compared to the heights this vine can race to in a frost-free climate. Growth rates of over one hundred feet a year are known!




What is striking is that the vine has developed a profusion of branching bud clusters just at the top of the tripod. Even where it's fully hardy, where the stems don't die back to the ground each Winter, Anredera cordifolia holds back on flowering until late Summer. The vine is borderline hardy here in New England, and the stems of my colony start from the ground each Spring or, rather, from soil surface of the the large pot in which I keep the tuberous root cluster. If late-season bloom were the only rule, the stems would sprout buds all along their length.


Instead, the clusters develop first only at the very top of the stems, in an impressive (as well as scary) tangle of growth.  




What effect might there be from the waning day length of late Summer, or the relative chill developing in the night air? If either of those factors were predominant, buds would still form along the length of the stems, not just at their tips.  


More likely is that multiple factors are working in concert to regulate flowering. First, the stems grow like hell all Summer long, twining as high and wide as they can. My tripod is a "mere" twenty feet high, and yet the first stems reach the top of it in early August. If the tripod were another ten or even twenty feet tall, stems might still reach the top before frost.


Next, when either late Summer's shortening days or the chillier nights become obvious, the stem tips switch from growing vegetatively—in this case, twining higher—to growing reproductively, by forming racemes of flower buds. Only when these buds are well advanced into flowering do side stems at lower elevations begin displaying flowers of their own.


From the standpoint of attracting pollinators, and then distributing fruit and seeds widely, flowering at higher elevations is wise. But for ground-bound human fans, the strategy is inconvenient. Anredera flowers are so fragrant that another name for the plant is mignonette vine. I'd need a cherry picker to be able to enjoy the fragrance these flowers will soon pour out.


If close-at-hand fragrance is your priority, grow Anredera on a lower structure—a pergola, say, or up vertical poles or strings that aren't the twenty feet of my tripod's legs. I'm growing the vine for size; my tripod is a permanent fixture, and cries out for one monster annual vine or another. (Most years, my choice is giant woolly morning glory, Argyreia nervosa.) Pinch the stem tips as needed so they don't become so extended and whip-like before it's time to switch over to flower production. I don't have experience with how pinching Madeira vine might affect flowering; it might be best not to pinch after August first, so that there is still time for new stem tips to develop enough vegetatively before they are "requested" by the advancing season to switch to reproductive duties.


What if my tripod were ten or twenty feet taller, or whatever height would exceed how high the Madiera vine stems could twine before late Summer summons them into bloom? Would they still flower? In other words, is flowering also stimulated because the stems have reached the top of their support? (This is the case with most forms of Hedera.) Or, perhaps, their ascent to the top of my tripod by August per se is just coincidental. Maybe the real impetus to form flowerbuds is because the "topped-out" stems have several weeks into early September to wave about in the air as they unsuccessfully detect higher structures to climb. The waving-about could be the trigger to form buds more than the topping-out.


It could be, then, that stems of Anredera have a sense of timing (waiting until September before forming buds), a sense of tip dominance (forming buds first only at the tips of stems), a sense of elevation (forming buds, first, on growth that has attained the highest possible elevation), a sense of touch (forming buds once stems lose contact with a structure, in this case, by climbing to the top of it), and a sense of motion (waving about leads to bud formation).




Madeira vine may be just a way-too-vigorous tropical weed, but it's one with surprisingly sensate involvement with its environment. Stay tuned for the full flowering, which should be on display in a couple of weeks.


Here's how to grow Madeira vine.

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