I purchase the majority of my plants on a whim. Hands up, it’s one of my greatest weaknesses, not to mention greatest expenses. I am a self-confessed, unashamed plantaholic, but I am not alone. Admit it, you’ve been there, confronted by a plant you have no place for and you just have to have it. It’s an addiction, but it’s okay; there are so many worse obsessions than wanting to possess, study and marvel at the beauty of foliage and flowers. In addition, I am not a great one for planning ahead, despite encouraging other gardeners to do so. I tend to see what plants I’ve got, and then work out how to make the best of them. This approach will probably make more conservative gardeners feel queasy, but each to his (or her) own. It works very well for me.
I’m often asked where I get my plants from, and my unhelpful answer is ‘everywhere’. There’s scarcely a situation in which I am not capable of finding a plant to buy. Back in May, on holiday with a group of friends, I found myself at Longstock Park in Hampshire at the time of their annual plant fair. This wasn’t entirely an accident – sometimes I do get as far as planning my spontaneous purchasing – but it was a steaming hot day and I wasn’t really in the mood for plant shopping.
I had been on the look out for a new passion flower for some time, having become a little tired of the common-or-garden P. caerulea growing by my front gate and having tragically killed off P. ‘Victoria’ last winter. Unexpectedly I spotted a white hybrid called ‘Snow Queen’ and was immediately sold. The plant looked healthy and vigorous, and at 2ft already had 5 or 6 flower buds. Back at home in Broadstairs I planted ‘Snow Queen’ in a tall pot and left her to mingle with a resurgent Holboellia latifolia. Anyone familiar with Holboellia latifolia might question whether any climber, other than Russian vine (Fallopia baldschuanica), could be a match for such a vigorous beast, but in ‘Snow Queen’ it has met its match.
Passiflora ‘Snow Queen’ is a most welcome introduction from passion flower enthusiast Myles Irvine, a gym owner from Surbiton. It is named in honour of his friend Natalia Walaszek. In 2007 Myles crossed hardy P. caerulea with tender P. ‘White Wedding’ and the result, four years later, was ‘Snow Queen’, selected for the purity and longevity of its white flowers and the hardiness and vigour of the vine itself. And when I say vigour, I mean vigour. In the four months since I planted it, ‘Snow Queen’ has grown 15ft from the base and is producing ten or more flowers every day, each lasting 48 hours. At first the self-clinging stems produced only leaves, some larger than my hand, but in early August flowering resumed and looks set to continue through autumn. The amount of growth is staggering when you consider the pot my plant is growing in measures only 12″ in diameter.
White flowers are always popular with gardeners and this passion flower has blooms of the purest white with just a hint of crisp, Granny Smith green. The outer petals, knowns as sepals, have curious green hooks (awls) at their tips. Three imposing stigmas are spotted with a rich, figgy purple. As a flower it’s damn close to perfection and the bees love it too. The leaves are both enormous and attractive, perfect for covering unsightly walls.
Passiflora ‘Snow Queen’ thrives in full sun or light shade and enjoys good drainage. It will grow very happily in a pot, on a balcony or on the patio. The vine is both hardy and evergreen, capable of flowering all year round in sheltered conditions. Plants are available from Cross Common Nursery in my native Cornwall. Don’t think twice about buying one. This is a climber everyone should find space for. TFG.