Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
My brother knows that I love to eat fruit, especially trying unusual ones when I come across them. So, a couple of weeks ago I was amused to see his excitement over some small, orange Passion fruits that were developing and ripening on his vine that was growing up his pergola. He didn’t remember where he got the plant from, or the variety, but I told him it wouldn’t be the edible one as they are too tender to grow outside in this country. However, he was not convinced. Then he proudly brought me a fruit to try. There was very little pulp in the fruit surrounding the seeds, certainly not enough to eat. Not wanting to disappoint him with my lack of enthusiasm, I decided to put the sticky seeds from the pod in a seed tray of compost and in the propagator. I wasn’t hopeful as seeds like that have a tendency to rot if they are not thoroughly washed clean of fruit pulp. To my surprise the whole tray-full of seedlings came up in a few days! He was pleased to say the least. My next job is to prick them out to grow on a bit, but I will need to protect them for this Winter as they are so small. They will have to be kept in a frost free Greenhouse until they are much bigger, because they are not the hardiest of plants and even mature vines can succumb in hard winters.
After the success with my brothers Passion Fruit seeds this Autumn, I have decided to try and grow some more trees and vines from seeds. There are several specialist seed suppliers on the Internet of whom Chilterns is my favourite. In their catalogue listing, along with the trees, vegetables and flowering plants, are quite a few climbers of one sort, or another. I am going to try one, or two of the more unusual ones that I came across including Akebia Quinata, or “The Chocolate Vine.” The books say it is a vigorous, perennial, climber from China and Japan where it will grow up to 10m and is hardy down to –23C. The vine will look after itself and doesn’t need pruning, but for best results the books say it needs the company of another plant for good fertilization. The plant has several uses as the edible sausage shaped fruits have a pulp that is said to be like chocolate and the semi evergreen leaves can be used to make a type tea. The young shoots can also be eaten raw and the tougher stems can be used for basket weaving. With few pests and growing in any soil it sounds too good to be true!
On the Allotment my other vines are developing at different rates. Earlier this year I planted the large leafed, self fertile, Kiwi Jenny, behind my mini Kiwi (Issai) that I planted a couple of years back. Jenny gives the normal, shop, sized fruits and, now it is starting to settle in, I will have to put a couple of posts in this winter strung with some training wires between them to start training it. When my Akebia plants grow big enough, I will have to move some of the trees that have been growing on in the special bag pots, so that I can make room in the row and keep the climbers all together with the exception of the Grape Vines.
I have tried rooting various vines from cuttings, but haven’t had the success that I have from seed. I tried Grape Vines with no success at all even though Vineyards root them by the thousand to create their endless rows of vines. I did have a little success though with both types of Kiwi Vine cuttings in water and they too are being kept in the Greenhouse for their first Winter.
The pair of Schissandra Vines, or Magnolia Vines are establishing themselves slowly on my Allotment and starting to twine up the pieces of trellising. They are native to Japan and Korea, but also widely grown throughout China where the Chinese name for the plant, means “Five Flavour Berry,” as it is claimed that the fruits exhibit all five of the taste characteristics; - Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and Spicy. This deciduous, woody vine is well suited to its natural forest habit where it likes some shade and moist, but well-drained soil. Schisandra Chinensis to give it its Latin name will grow to some 9 m, or 30 ft high and is hardy down to -25°C. Eventually the vines will produce fragrant flowers that are followed by scarlet, edible fruits, but these are only produced if both a male and female plant is present, so that the pollen, from the male flowers, can fertilise the “eggs,” in the female flowers.
I am still having mixed success with two other, smaller vines that I have grown for several years on my Allotment. The tiny Cucamelon does grow well enough on our exposed site, but I have to admit the fruits have a thicker skin than those that my friends at Oak Tree grew in their Polythene Tunnel and the Cinamon Vine, of which I have spoken several times in the past, has still not yielded a worth while tuber. However, this year I did manage to save a small handful of the hard, little, bulbils that form on its climbing stems. Hopefully, I can start these into growth next Spring and try growing them inside a Poly tunnel at work where maybe they will grow stronger and produce decent sized tubers.