One of the many joys of gar­den­ing is that you get to exper­i­ment, explore and take risks. Often the cost is no more than a cou­ple of dollars—the price of a pack­age of seeds. This is the fru­gal side of gar­den­ing. (I can also show you the excep­tion­ally non-frugal side of gar­den­ing, but that, my friends, is a story for another blog post.) One of this year’s exper­i­ments in my gar­den was the cup and saucer vine (Cobea scan­dens).

cup and saucer vine Cobea scandens 2

The flow­ers on the cup and saucer vine begin as pale green lanterns and open to ivory or deep pur­ple flowers.

I don’t recall if this is one of the seed pack­ages I pur­chased or if it was included in a free­bie pack­age from Botan­i­cal Inter­ests, one of my favorite seed com­pa­nies. It seems like some­thing I would order because the descrip­tion promised this vine would 1) be a quick grow­ing, 2) grow up to 25 feet in a sin­gle sea­son 3) have flow­ers that open pale green and mature to ivory or deep pur­ple and 4) have a sweet scent.

Appar­ently the only thing this vine doesn’t do is grow hun­dred dol­lar bills on every other vine.

cup and saucer vine Cobea scandens

Before the flow­ers open they resem­ble small, green lanterns.

I like the idea of a quick-growing, dec­o­ra­tive vine as part of cre­at­ing sum­mer shade over the chicken run. The chick­ens have a cov­ered porch that allows them to get out of the rain or to shel­ter from the blaz­ing sun. But in the sum­mer some dap­pled shade over the rest of the run would improve the com­fort fac­tor in the rest of the run as well as shade their water cooler.

So how did the cup and saucer vine perform?

I’m think­ing of start­ing my own rat­ing sys­tem. For now, let’s base the rat­ing sys­tem on stars. I’ll fancy up the idea later.

What should my per­sonal rat­ing sys­tem include? An over­all rat­ing, cer­tainly. Beauty? Yes, I do think beauty is impor­tant. Pest/disease resis­tance in my gar­den? Yes indeed, that seems like a good idea too. I am over hav­ing pow­dery mildew on lilacs and Japan­ese bee­tles on pole beans. Toxicity/safety? This might not be impor­tant to some gar­den­ers, but it is impor­tant to me if I’m going to grow it over the chicken coop. I found a handy list of toxic/non-toxic plants assem­bled by the Cal­i­for­nia Poi­son Con­trol Sys­tem. The cup and saucer vine is, appar­ently, non-toxic—at least to humans. I didn’t find it listed as toxic to chick­ens any­where else on the Inter­net. And in my bold exper­i­ment here it is, appar­ently, non-toxic since the chick­ens have kept the lower parts of the vines pecked clean of leaves and flowers.

What else? Scent? Use­ful­ness? Edi­bil­ity? Okay, we’ll go with that for now.

Chicken coop with cup and saucer vine

The cup and saucer vine cov­ers the left side of the out­door run. The vine on the right climb­ing over the coop roof is a sweet autumn clema­tis, which will be cov­ered in tiny white flow­ers in the fall.

So, here is my rat­ing for the cup and saucer plant on a four-star (for now) rat­ing system.

***    Beauty — The flow­ers cer­tainly are beau­ti­ful, although they are some­what sub­tle. This is not a vine that will draw your eye from a dis­tance as some clema­tis do, for exam­ple.
**** Pest/disease resis­tance — No com­plaints here. The Japan­ese bee­tles are com­pletely unin­ter­ested. The vine doesn’t show any signs of dis­ease or other prob­lems this year.
**** Safety/non-toxicity — Cour­tesy of the Cal­i­for­nia Poi­son Con­trol Sys­tem and my own bold exper­i­ment.
**      Scent — The flow­ers do have a mildly sweet scent, but you need to stick your nose right into it to smell it.
**** Use­ful­ness — This is a work horse-type vine because it grows so quickly, pro­vid­ing a nice screen where needed in the sum­mer heat.
*        Edi­bil­ity — You can’t eat it (I don’t think). Well, you can’t have every­thing.
**** Over­all — A grand four-star rating.

The big­ger ques­tion might be, would I grow the cup and saucer vine again? Yes! And I would also rec­om­mend it to other gar­den­ers. It’s an easy, robust and pleas­ing vine. All for the cost of a pack­age of seeds.

 

Robin
Keep Reading

We’re all at the mercy of the weather, espe­cially gar­den­ers. Even P. Allen Smith and his gar­den at Moss Moun­tain Farm is at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Remem­ber that beau­ti­ful film scene in the Keanu Reeves movie A Walk in the Clouds where all the work­ers fran­ti­cally build fires and dance with fans between the grape vines? A killing frost has descended on the val­ley and they are try­ing to keep the vines and grapes from seri­ous dam­age. They end up sav­ing the crop and romance was born.

P Allen Smith Moss Mountain Farm View from the House

Most of us don’t have dozens of ded­i­cated field work­ers to bat­tle the earth-cracking drought, biblical-proportioned floods or the weird, unsea­son­able weather that, strangely, seems to come about every other sea­son. We just suf­fer along and accept that we are part­ners with nature in the cre­ation of a gar­den. Some­times our part­ner is our friend. Some­times our part­ner is our enemy.

P Allen Smith in the Vegetable Garden at Moss Mountain Farm

Smith in his expan­sive veg­etable gar­den at Moss Moun­tain Farm

When 25 or so blog­gers vis­ited P. Allen Smith’s gar­den over­look­ing the Arkansas River Val­ley, it was dur­ing this year’s  unsea­son­ably cool spring. Huge swaths of the South and Mid-Atlantic had been blan­keted under some weird pres­sure sys­tem that fooled our flow­ers and veg­eta­bles into think­ing it was March rather than May. As we were squired around the 650-acre estate, more than one of Moss Moun­tain Farm tour guides rushed to explain, “It’s been so cool, every­thing is behind in blooming!”

P Allen Smith Rose Garden at Moss Mountain Farm

The for­mal rose gar­den at Moss Moun­tain Farm fea­tures a sym­met­ri­cal lay­out with a cir­cu­lar cen­ter lawn and brick folly.

Of course, there was noth­ing to explain since most of us on the tour had gar­dens at home that were sim­i­larly tardy. But even more, every­thing was per­fectly lovely and there were plenty of blooms to admire.

Rose Garden detail at P. Allen Smith's Moss Mountain Farm

Early spring in the rose gar­den at Moss Moun­tain Farm

(Is it more appro­pri­ate to say there is a gar­den or there are gardens?)

When you have 650 acres, there are many very sep­a­rate and dis­tinct areas.

There is the veg­etable gar­den, expan­sive enough to grow food for a small city. There are two rose gar­dens. There are peren­nial gar­dens and annu­als and a daf­fodil field and pond gar­dens and ter­race gardens.

(Well, that set­tles it. Gardens.)

Garden at P Allen Smith's Moss Mountain Farm

Gar­den at P Allen Smith’s Moss Moun­tain Farm

Indeed, plants there in Arkansas did seem to be a bit behind what you might expect for May. Nev­er­the­less, it was a lovely gar­den stroll and I expect it would also be lovely in the fall and even in the dead of winter—just a dif­fer­ent kind of lovely.

 

Robin
Keep Reading

Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.

Subscribe

Email Updates

To get the latest Bumblebee posts in your email box, just enter your email address.

  • Tags

  • Recent Posts

  • Google