This needs no description, it is so commonly grown in warm climates. I have chosen two of the original varieties, one with purple and one with red bracts, which have replaced the passionfruit on the front fence. See why! Although the possums do chew the bark, the plants are so rampant they will probably survive, and give me much-needed privacy from the traffic in the lane.
CHOKO aka Chayote
Every part of the choko can be eaten - the young tips steamed taste like asparagus, the tendrils can be used as a decoratative garnish, and the leaves may be steamed and sieved like turnip greens.
The reason most people dislike the choko is that they don't pick & use the fruit while it is young. Young chokos are full of flavour, tasting something like cucumber, with a hint of green bean. They can be sliced raw and used in salads, or stir-fried, sliced or quartered, according to size. Older fruit can be stuffed, curried, or used to pad out stews and soups (don't forget to eat the seed too).
Larger chokos take on the flavour of anything they are cooked with. In hard times they have been served as a sweet, cooked with lemon juice, sugar and ginger, or made into pies with a few more flavoursome fruits. It makes excellent pickles, chutneys and sauces.
Even the root is edible, and a well-established vine can have large sections of the tuber removed for food.
The rate of growth of the vine has to be seen to be believed! They take a year or two to become established and should be protected from frost and drying out during this time. Though cut down by the first frost, once established the vines will shoot again as soon as the weather warms up. They prefer to have their feet in deep rich moist soil, though they will grow almost anywhere there is water, and they will climb and travel extraordinary distances to get their heads in the sun.
One Choko vine will easily cover an old car body, hen run, garage, shed, or even the house! The Choko growing on my neighbours side of the fence! from which I had to remove it at his request.
To keep it under control, and encourage flowering, just keep pinching out the growing tips, steam & eat them. A regular supply of green veg.!
Chooks, guinea-pigs or other animals relish the leaves and stems, so utilising the prunings..
Flowers, which are rich in nectar and attract honeyeaters and native bees, begin appearing in late summer. The first fruit is ready in early autumn, and ripens over a long period. It will hang on the vine, getting progressively tougher, until late winter. Even these old tough fruits can be cut up and cooked for animal feed.
Mine is a thin-skinned variety, with no thorns. Some kinds can be quite painful to handle.
The choko contains Vitamins C and A, and is rich in pectin, a particularly useful kind of soluble vegetable fibre. It is the stuff which, combined with acid and sugar, makes jam set, so it can be used with scarcer fruit to stock up the store cupboard.
The dried stems are very strong, and can be used for weaving or string.
I have this vision, of every house in the world's shanty-towns having it's own choko growing over it, watered by waste water and fertilised by rubbish. Would it work, I wonder?
Once established, it needs keeping under control, but in an average backyard there is definitely a place for the choko!
Back to Cape Gooseberry
Mine is not the spectacular cool climate cultivar of the formal garden, but a delicate-looking variety Clematis Microphylla indigenous to this area. Planted in April 2003, and left to establish itself on the front fence during the dryest, hottest Summer on record, everyone can now enjoy it's fluffy cream flowers every winter & spring. However, it doesn't set seed - I have now learnt that the vine is one which requires plants of both sexes in order to seed, & that the young plants are very difficult to sex.
I now have only one vine, a sultana. For reasons explained elsewhere, I substantially re-designed the NW side of my garden. For the fruit to ripen successfully it needs to be in full sun, so the vine has been radically pruned, and is being trained onto a frame which will shade the NW facing walls of the house, while keeping the vine in the sun, and preventing it from climbing onto the roof.
Every garden in a Mediterranean climate should have a grape vine.
Like the fig, the established vine is drought tolerant, and productive of far more than just grapes.
Dried sultanas are rich in iron, fibre, & fruit sugars, and have endless uses.
Unfermented grape juice is delicious, rich in potassium, and can be easily pastereurised for storage until winter.
Verjuice, pressed from unripe grapes, can be used in many recipes instead of lemon juice or vinegar, and is an excellent meat tenderiser.
Wine, now almost exclusively made from grapes, is a subject too huge to go into here, while the best vinegars, and some excellent brandy are also children of the grape.
Vine leaves, which are stuffed to make Dolmades can be preserved in natural lactic acid, like sauerkraut or olives.
Oil pressed from the seeds is widely used both for cooking and for massage and cosmetic purposes.
Cuttings strike readily, and the prunings make excellent kindling.
It is small wonder that the grapevine was held sacred in many cultures, and symbolised the life force.
HONEYSUCKLE - (Photo - 30KB)
This evergreen vine flowers for several months, filling the air with haunting fragrance, which changes it's 'note' as the flowers age. Flowering sprays can be cut and last well in water. They look particularly graceful in a tall narrow vase, and scent the whole house.
Flowering honeysuckle attracts honeyeaters, while rabbits and guinea-pigs relish the foliage. Birds like the berries, but they may cause severe stomach upsets in humans.
It's strong growth makes it a quick screen, but it needs vigorous pruning, especially of the 'runners' - vines which lay on the ground and take root wherever they can.
The long flexible stems are valuable for all kinds of basketry.
IVY LEAFED PELAGONIUMS - Photo - 35KB
Colourful, fragarant, evergreen, drought resistant, shallow-rooted and wind-loving - this tough scrambler takes a while to become established, but then with just a little care it's yours for life! In fact, once it reaches the required size, it needs a regular trim, just like a hedge.
In all frost-free areas this wonderful plant can be used to tranform old iron fences or piles of rubble into a lush floral feature. Just don't over-water it, or it will rot!
In colder climates, it is an exotic summer plant, displayed to advantage in hanging baskets, and over-wintered in the greenhouse. It can also be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill, but really is best kept outside as long as the nights remain frost-free.
Climbing pelagoniums are the common choice for planting around 'Stobie poles' - the South Australian answer to a complete lack of local timber suitable to make telegraph poles. Constructed of old railway lines and concrete, motorists swear they jump out into the middle of the road so they can crash into them. Certainly their ugliness has been so covered with greenery in many cases that one might be forgiven for thinking they are alive!
Easily grown from cuttings, difficult to kill, and available in a wide variety of colours - there are even some forms with variegated flowers and/or leaves - they are ideal for home-grown gifts or for charity stalls.
JASMINE - winter and summer
'Winter' jasmine is rampant, but the heavy scent is delicious and the flowering period begins in late winter and can extend into early summer. Another evergreen screen which sends out 'runners', it needs severe and regular pruning.
This is not the European Winter Jasmine, whose yellow flowers on bare stems brighten many a London suburb, but hails from India.
The Summer jasmine is not so vigorous, and the flowers have a more subtle, though long-lasting and pervasive perfume. It is the flower of this variety which is used to scent Jasmine Tea. This is another evergreen, and it needs light pruning to encourage thicker growth, because of it's straggly habits
This Eastern States native was planted near the front fence, on the mistaken understanding that it was not as rampant as it's cousin, Kennedya Nigra. I was wrong! It now covers a large section of my SE fence, and has to be firmly dissuaded from climbing the Macadamia tree. However it is attractive & drought tolerant, so it can stay. Indeed, I'm not sure I could get rid of it if I wanted to!
LAB-LAB, 7- YEAR, or HYACYNTH BEAN Dolichos ssp.
This vigorous bean has many names, and comes in short, medium, and tall varieties!
I started out 9 years ago with seeds of a tall variety with flat green pods, which when young are a good substitute for sugar peas, but the self-sown plants I now also have are purplish, with a rounder, crisper pod, and a slightly better flavour. The dried bean is identical with those from the original plants.
The vines are easily grown from seed, bear prolifically, last for many years, and the foliage and flowers are very attractive. Both are edible, the flowers raw, and the leeaves cooked as greens.
The green pods are best eaten young, while the fresh young beans can be used like peas. If they are bitter, boil quickly for a few minutes, then drain and finish cooking in fresh liquid. The fully mature beans, like many others, including the red kidney bean, contain Trypsin Inhibitors. Thoroughly boiling them for at least 5 minutes, before cooking until tender can reduce or even inactivate TIs in many species.. The beans store well when dried, but the skin is unpalatable, so can be removed after soaking.
(Some tips for cooking any kind of dried bean: Soak dried pulses in a weak soluttion of Bicarb Soda, then drain, rinse, cover with fresh water & freeze them solid. Thaw just before cooking. You can soak, freeze & store containers of beans for a quick meal when wanted. Thus treated, they are less likely to cause wind, & they cook more quickly, because the freezing has a tenderising effect, caused by the expansion of moisture within the pulses as it freezes. Works with tough meat, too! Adding a teaspoon of bicarb.soda to every 3 cups of both soaking & cooking water water reduces tannin & phytic acid content, as well as saving even more cooking time. Don't add salt, or acid e.g. tomatos until they are completely cooked. Both toughen uncooked protein.)
LIGNUM (Muelenbeckia Adpressa)
Another indigenous climber I have recently planted to climb over the front fence. It is said to produce very small edible berries following tiny white flowers. I've seen the flowers, but not the berries. Perhaps it is like the Clematis, or maybe the birds get them. It is a rampart climber, and needs strict control, but can be clipped to densely cover a wire frame
This highly decorative plant will grow in almost total shade, and sets fruit even as far South as Melbourne. It does, however, take up a great deal of room for a comparatively small crop. It helps if you hand pollinate the flowers.
I grew it for its tropical appearance, and accepted the fruit as a bonus. The leaves are highly decorative, and quite tough. If cut and placed in water, they will last for a very long time, creating the illusion of an 'instant' indoor plant.
The fruit segments ripen progressively, and fruit is best cut from the vine when the upper parts are beginning to ripen. Keep it in a paper bag, removing and eating the segments as the green caps fall off. Also called 'Fruit Salad Plant' it tastes like a mixture of pineapple and banana.
Unripe segments may make your lips and mouth very sore.. Fascinating though the vine is, it's fruits seldom used, and are only a curiosity.
PUMPKINS - See Annuals
This is the white sweet potato, or Kumara widely grown in New Zealand and the highlands of New Guinea. It does better than the yellow sort in temperate climates.
My vines climb all over the front fence for most of the year, colouring to shades of orange, red, and violet in autumn, and dying back only at the end of winter. It is a member of the Morning Glory family, and has trumpet-shaped pale lilac flowers. The tubers are huge! They can be somewhat fibrous, and need to be cooked as soon as they are cut up or the flesh turns an unpleasant grey colour. But they are a prolific staple crop, and very versatile. They can be used in sweet or savoury dishes, and in breads, cakes and scones.
The foliage can also be cooked, and is a particularly nutritious green vegetable.
To get a good crop of tubers each year, cuttings should be taken from a vine allowed to over-winter, and set out in late spring. They need constant moisture and a rich soil for best results. Tubers from vines allowed to perennialise are too fibrous for human food, though they may be fed to animals.
Concerned by the dramatic reduction in the number and species of butterfly in the garden, I decided in 2002 to plant a selection of species which would attract them to feed and breed. The old-fashioned Buddleia Davidii is one of the best-loved by all species of butterfly, so I planted one in the front garden. It's water requirements are modest, and if well-pruned every autumn it need not get out of hand.
For me it holds fond memories of the wild gardens which grew on the bombsites of WW2 London, and in which I loitered, sometimes for hours, on my way (?!) to and from school.
FEIJOA SELLOWIANA(sometimes called Pineapple Guava)
is not a Guava at all, but a totally unrelated species. It is evergreen, and has egg-shaped green fruits with aromatic pulp. The fleshy flower-petals are edible too, very sweet and tasty. Happy in sun or part shade, and planted in February 2003, to replace an unproductive avocado, it is part of a living screen which has now evolved in the back garden.
My guava is the Hawaian guava, with medium to large fruit, yellow skinned when ripe, but with deep salmon-pink flesh. Rich in vitamin C, winter ripening, guavas can be eaten fresh, cooked, or bottled. They need to be watered during dry periods if the fruit is to be palatable. If neglected the shrub will survive, but the resulting small fruit are both bitter and astringent. The seeds go very hard when cooked, so are often discarded, but when the fruit is eaten fresh, they can be chewed and swallowed, like grape pips, for they contain omega3 fatty acids. In fact most fruit pips except those having a strong flavour of almonds - should be chewed and swallowed if palatable, for this reason.
Psidium Guava fruits prolifically and care needs to be taken in the sub-tropics and tropics, lest the seedlings escape into the bush.
ROSE Felicia - (Photo - 25KB)
A David Austin rose, with sprays of small apricot-tinted flowers, Felicia blooms for up to 9 months of the year in Adelaide, although the main flush comes from late September until Christmas.
The perfume is extraordinarily sweet and pervasive. One spray in a vase will scent the entire house, although the flowers droop quickly when cut. But the perfume is retained, and even when quite dead, the flowers remain fragrant for a year or more.
While this makes Felicia an obvious choice for pot-pourri or sachets, it is also excellent for rose-water and jellies, despite it's lack of colour. Both roses in bloom - 33KB
A hardy shrub, evergreen, and an invaluable herb. I use it in cooking - excellent with pulses - and for aromatherapy. Also, sometimes, as a stimulating tea - but with caution!
Rosemary requires a fair amount of sun, or it sulks and sprawls. In 1989 mine had one of the few sunny spots in my urban jungle, but as the tree grew the shade just got too much for it, and after watching it struggle for a number of years, I removed it in 2000. I replaced it with a plant in a pot which can be moved around with the sun.
Legend says that Mary, Mother of God, spread her mantle on the bush, and the flowers were given it's sky-blue colour.
It is also said that as the Rosemary fares, so does the woman of the house. If it flourishes, so does she! ?
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