Along the Garden Path: Let the vine twine!


When you think of flowering vines, the first thing that comes to mind might be a climbing rose or clematis. Although it can take many years for either of these to achieve their full glory, wouldn’t it be great to have a flowering vine that made a huge impact the first year?

Well, you can achieve this if you grow the Hyacinth Bean. (Dolichos lablab) The Hyacinth Bean “Ruby Moon” is a brilliant purple vigorous vine. The generous clusters of blue and amethyst flowers resemble a delicate wisteria or resemble sweet peas without the scent. In August, you expect this to be a focal point in your garden. Hundreds of flowers are produced together with huge flat purple bean pods and colorful foliage.

According to Monticello, Hyacinth Bean Vine was sold to Thomas Jefferson by his favorite nurseryman, Bernard McMahon, in 1804. Jefferson grew it at Monticello over 200 years ago, and it can also be known as the Jefferson bean.

It was introduced in our gardens in 2006, with stunning lilac purple flowers and shiny, dark purple pods that stand out against the purple-green foliage. Twining stems quickly climb a fence or trellis, or will trail across the ground for an attractive ground cover.

The plants, grown from seed, can reach 15 feet tall if given support and attract the hummingbirds. This deer resistance, prolific low maintenance beauty grows in sunny garden spots of prepared beds after temperatures have warmed. A precaution is the beans inside are poisonous so make sure to keep away from children and pets.

When we plant our seeds we chip the seed with a knife, soak them in water overnight for better germination. The seed takes about 10-20 days to germinate and we plant directly in the garden; however, they can be started indoors and planted after the frost-free date. Seeds will not germinate well in cold soil and the plants can be killed by a late frost. It’s best planted in late spring once the weather is warm and nighttime temperatures stay around 50 degrees. We select the first of June to plant directly in the ground, watching to keep the squirrels from digging them up.

Plants can be pinched back when young to encourage branching and flowering. However, we do nothing and they still branch and are tremendously prolific. When the plant is still young, it’s helpful to spread a nice layer of mulch to help conserve moisture, improve aesthetics and prevent weeds. The vines bloom from July through October with purple beans pods containing three or four seeds.

This is an annual plant but you can save the seeds for next year once the pods have turned brown after the first frost. Pick and keep them in a cool dry place until next May, and then plant them where you can enjoy them once again outdoors.

It’s an attractive plant right now and we enjoy setting on the deck watching the hummingbirds go from bloom to bloom.

Seeds can be purchased at garden centers with approximately 10 seeds in the package. Mark your 2019 calendar to add this vine to your garden.

By Charlene Thornhill

Along the Garden Path

Charlene Thornhill is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her community column Along the Garden Path. She can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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