Top tips for keeping that much loved Christmas plant alive. We've tested a plant sensor and mixed it up with some good old gardening knowledge...
There are ways of telling people about Christianity. Attacking them in a shopping centre isn’t one of them.
When I was 19, I travelled alone around Central America. It was an incredible experience and opened my eyes not only to incredible places but also to some of the strangest people I’ve ever met, before or since.
I could list 50 weird travellers that I met, but of all the experiences that stand out for me the most memorable was probably the day when I was sitting alone having a coffee in an air conditioned shopping centre. I’m not a fan of shopping centres, but I am a fan of coffee. And not sweating. So I had taken a break whilst I was in the capital city and was enjoying a relaxing morning.
The next thing I knew, a couple from the US came and asked me if they could sit down. I didn’t really want them to, but they did anyway. They told me that they were missionaries, made some sweeping and rather derogatory statements about the local people, and then – completely without warning – grabbed hold of my hands and started praying for me. Terrified, I sat there while they said “Dear God, please help Zoë to find a husband…” and I thought: “I’m 19! I don’t want a husband! Can you at least pray for something that I want?”
Frankly, I don’t want to be at the receiving end of any missionising. But if it must take place, I’d much rather that missionaries used the approach taken by their Spanish counterparts in the 15th and 16th centuries: they used the physical structure of the passion flower to explain the last days of Jesus (his ‘passion’). The ten petals represent the ten faithful apostles (Peter, who denied Christ, and Judas, who betrayed him, are excluded). The radial filaments represent the crown of thorns. The stigma represent the nails and the anthers the wounds.
No matter what your views are on Christian theology, it is hard not to appreciate the passionflower. It’s a climbing plant with beautiful flowers and the good news is that there are a number of varieties that can be grown in the UK. Just use plenty of gravel in the compost and cover up the roots (and maybe also the plant itself) to help it survive harsh winters.
The best winter hardy varieties are probably:
- The blue Constance Elliott (passiflora caerulea)
- The purple ‘True Passionflower’ (passiflora incarnata). It may be best to grow this in a container and bringing it indoors for winter.
More tender varieties include:
- The stunning passiflora lady Margaret, a strawberry red hybrid with a white heart.
- The red banana passionfruit (passiflora antiquiensis), a cerise variant native to Columbia
- The wing-stemmed passionflower (passiflora alata) – a deep red flower with striking striped filaments that protrude in a trumpet shape.
- My personal favourite, passiflora x belotii, a lavender hybrid with deep blue-purple filaments.