Passion Vines, Bougainvillea & Japanese Maples

Passion vines in Ontario and B.C.; seeds for peppers; trouble with nasturtiums, obtaining a Bougainvillea and exotic Japanese maples!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

March 19, 2006

The questions are pouring in so I’ll get to some of them this week. Last Thursday Margaret Miskelly wrote from Vancouver Island with a question that though she wasn’t aware of it, applies as well to readers in southern Ontario: “Hello, some years ago I lived in Australia and grew a "fruiting" passion fruit. It seems that the climate in Nanaimo is quite similar. I am wondering if you have any information about where I can buy a fruit producing passion fruit and also it you have any information about its care.”

Certainly passion fruit vines (likely Passiflora caerulea) can be grown on Vancouver Island, although in some cases they will need to be brought into a greenhouse over the winter. In many cases, they may be killed to near or at ground level, but will come up from the roots again the following spring. They should be available in Nanaimo at such nurseries/garden centres as Long Lake, Green Thumb and Art Knapp now or very soon. Be sure to look for different and varying species such as those with blue, blue and white, and red flowers.

In Ontario, we grew several passion vines for years, by storing them in a cold basement room over winter with just a low level of fluorescent light on during the days. One apartment gardener whose garden I judged in East York over a number of years grew several in a pots and trailed the vines all along the balcony railing, and by late summer, after profuse, gorgeous bloom, there were hundreds of edible fruits so pollination did not seem to be a problem.

Passion vines prefer full sun although will grow in partial shade (more sun than shade).If the plants are root-bound in their pots even better blooming will be forced.

Marjorie wrote this week from the Niagara Peninsula: “Listen to your show and enjoy it on AM740. Would like to know if I can start red and green pepper plants from seeds taken from fresh bought peppers? And is there some-thing special I must do to get them to bear the red and green flesh? I have bought seeds for both and have found some are not true red peppers when they appear.

“I am, by the way, the nasturtium lady from Virgil, and I'm still having trouble getting these plants to grow and flower in pots. I have followed your instructions of planting in the poorest soil from the garden, given them full sun, no fertilizer and kept them watered when needed and they have good drainage. I find that when I throw seeds along my west-facing fence, directly into the soil (our house faces south so we get constant sun) the seeds flourish, yet [when I] put a pot of seed in that same place they go stringy, and I can't get lush foliage on them. Has it got something to do with the type of seed I buy? Some I get from the hardware store and some from garden centres in passing. Or could it be something with the pots? I use both plastic and ceramic or clay pots. Boy, I'd sure like to grow some spectacular nasturtiums in containers sometime! I'm missing something here.”

Well Marjorie, there are a number of points to be made about growing from self-collected seed. Most of the flow-ers and vegetables sold today are hybrids, and that means that if you sow the seed that they produce there is no guarantee whatsoever that the resulting plants will produce anything that even resembles the flowers, fruit or even plant habit of the original plant. There are many seed savers now, and organizations (such as Seeds of Diversity Canada) which practice sowing only old reliable varieties. These people do not like the hybrids and believe we are losing a great part of the gene pool for many plants by sticking to the hybrids. I cannot say that I agree with all of their conclusions and policies, but nevertheless it is a significant point-of-view. If you are looking for more information on this I suggest you track down the location of a “Seedy Saturday” event some of which will likely be held in the near future in various parts of the province (coincidentally Toronto’s was held this Saturday). Now as to peppers from purchased seed, they certainly should produce red peppers, if that is what is indicated on the package, but they will definitely not be red (or any other colour except green) while they are maturing. Only the mature peppers will redden up.

Now, to get back to the Nasturtium problem, it seems to me you have partially answered the question yourself. If the plants are flourishing in the ground, you are missing something if the ones in the containers do not thrive. It sounds to me that the containerized ones are missing something, quite possibly something you have not mentioned, such as water. You don’t allow them to dry out I hope. Did you use the same quality seeds in both locations? Did you use the same soil in the pots as that on the ground?

Finally, the answer when you have a problem growing a particular plant always is to change the plant. For example, how about trying some of the new Supertunias, or one of the lower growing Nicotine?

On the same day, Julian Kenney wrote a nice short question: “I live in London ON. Where can I buy a Bougainvillea?”

Bougainvillea vines should be available from the better garden centres in the London area, but possibly not until late May or early June. Try, for example, Little Tree Farm, Springbank Garden Centre, The Indoor Garden Centre, and a little further a field, Canadale near St. Thomas.

Finally this week, a note from Emil Sekerak, questioned something I had mentioned in one of my 90 second vignettes that run on three stations in Ontario: “I know you get a lot of queries so if there is no answer I will under-stand. Some weeks back you mentioned a new Japanese maple called I think "Fuchsia" which has pink and white foliage. What nursery is it? I would like to see about ordering it. Thank you.”

Well Emil, you missed the names of the two I mentioned specifically: ‘Floating Clouds’ and ‘Asahi zuru’. That’s the easy part. The hard part is to tell you where you might find these and another one called ‘Butterfly’. Since you did not tell me where you reside, that is even more difficult. I would suggest trying nurseries/garden centres such as Sheridan and Humber in the Toronto area, and Canadale as mentioned earlier near St. Thomas. They are handled by various garden centres, but stocking does vary year by year.

By the way, be sure to keep your new exotic Japanese maple out of full hot sun planting areas, they do burn easier than the standard cultivars.

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