Intrigue and Preparation
(Caterpillars? What sort of caterpillars?) My friend was already talking about another part of the garden but I could only focus on what he mentioned about the passionflower vines. "All sorts but around here mostly Gulf Frits. Butterflies find passionflower vines irresistible." He said these words as if it were a bad thing. I wanted as many butterflies as possible in my garden so for me sweeter words could not have been spoken. Although it was January, I already had visions of miles of passionflower vines meandering through my garden. My friend had an overhead chain link arbor of sorts. My bit of space could never accommodate something so grand, so I purchased three modest poke-in-the-ground-type trellises and erected them. During my quest I discovered Georgia Vines, a wonderful company that sells many varieties of passionflower vines. I purchased some seeds and everything was set to have the most wonderful butterfly garden ever. Did you know that Georgia Vines participates in the Dave's Garden PlantScout program, and that many other Passifloras are available via PlantScout participating companies? Here is the link.
The air became warmer as March rolled in with all its glory. Before I had a chance to put my passionflower vine plan into action, I happened upon a native passionflower vine at a local nursery. Oh the shear joy! Despite my best intentions, I had not started any of the passionflower vine seeds I purchased and to this day they still sit in my seed drawer. Buying and collecting seeds is a funny old business. I am convinced the excitement tends to be more with the collecting than the planting. To say I have a rather large accumulation would be an understatement. I digress.
As I was saying, a casual visit to a local nursery rewarded me with Passiflora bryonioides, an Arizona native passionflower. One truly does learn something new every day. I had no idea Arizona had any native passionflower vines. Along with bryonoides, there are two other more elusive varieties native to Arizona: Passiflora mexicana and Passiflora foetida var. arizonica. I have always associated passionflower vines with the tropics for some reason. There was such a simple beauty to these vines and there was a slight sense of guilt when I thought about why I was purchasing these plants. Still, I had to see if they would serve to be the butterfly magnets I had imagined them to be.
It's All Here Waiting For You
I found an old sweetpea obelisk and decided this would be perfect for my newly acquired plants. I amended the soil a bit and let them do their thing. At first they just sat there and when March became April and April became May they really took off. You may be asking why I chose the obelisk over the intended trellises I set up in January. Remember the seed thing? Well, I purchased OTHER vine seeds for those trellises and I have yet to grow any of those either. So much for intentions.
My little passionflower vines soon moved beyond the confines of the obelisk and the vision of hundreds of miles of vines was becoming a reality. I checked daily for caterpillars or even a hint of a butterfly and nothing. This has always been my challenge. The descriptions: "Attracts butterflies", "Great for the butterfly garden" or "Butterflies find these plants irresistible" have always applied to other gardens, not mine.
On the eighth day of June, it happened: the Gulf Frit Butterflies arrived. I'll share their story in my next article.