Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Plant profile: Dipogon lignosus (Cape Sweet Pea)

When the arch was installed at PG, I decided it was time for a vine to climb up it. But I had a list of requirements for this here vine – and a common or garden Bougainvillea or jasmine wasn’t gonna cut it!

First, of course, it had to be drought tolerant – nay, drought proof. The arch area receives no water except seasonal rain. No passion flowers or Clematis for me.

Second, the vine had to be evergreen, low maintenance and perennial – more beauty, less fuss. Roses and sweet peas need not apply!

Third, the flowers had to smell nice. “OK, now you’re asking too much” I hear you say. But find my perfect vine I did, and Josh even had some seedlings for me of Dipogon lignosus – the Cape Sweet Pea.

Latin name: Dipogon lignosus ("DIP-oh-gone lig-NO-sus")
Common name: Cape sweet pea, Mile-a-Minute Vine,
Originally from: south America - mostly Western Cape and Eastern Cape.
Blooms: From early spring through summer.
Light: Full sun to part sun.
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water needed.
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: Grows 10' in one year. AHEM!
USDA Zones: 9-11
Where to find in P. Garden: The front archway is furred in it.
Our half dozen seedlings took a quick look at the bamboo canes we strung around the arch as a foothold, and raced up: they will probably span the arch in a month or so.

Dipogon lignosus is Least Concern in the Red List of South African plants (Raimondo et al. 2009), meaning that it is not threatened. In fact, it's not even mildly bothered. By anything at all.

In Australia and New Zealand where it is commonly named “mile-a-minute” (eek!) it's a highly invasive weed that climbs upwards and rambles sideways in a very naughty fashion.

And in SF? Well we have had ours on the arch at the front for a few years now and while we do occasionally trim it, it's been a great plant and I'd plant it again in a second.

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