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Gardening Advice: Flowering Vines

October 5, 2001


Next on my list is Dutchman’s-pipe, Aristolochia gigantea. Like its better-known cousin from the southeastern United States, A. macrophylla, this South American native has large dark green leaves that provide utmost privacy. But its “pipes” are much more impressive: meerschaum-shaped flowers, 6 to 8 inches across, lined in maroon with veins of creamy white. A. gigantea flowers year-round in warm climates like yours (and in greenhouses). In the north, this rapid grower blooms from mid-July till first frost. A daintier alternative is climbing snapdragon, Asarina procumbens, which has charming tubular flowers, usually a bluish purple, but sometimes pink or white (to me they look more like foxgloves than snapdragons). The hairy gray-green leaves are small, and the plant unfurls masses of soft, fine tendrils that clasp a trellis, mesh, or nearby plants. Slow to get started, asarina is nonetheless vigorous. Over the five-month growing season in my zone-6 garden, it covers an area about 6 feet square. The last of my annuals to die, it is still in bloom when frost has shut down everything except kale, endive, and parsley.