Those words were uttered more than once this summer as passersby gawked at the otherworldly flowers hanging from the vine on the fence at my friend Leann’s house. (There are pictures of her garden in my Garden Gallery at www.troybmarden.com) Apparently, a few folks even took offense at these giant, martianesque blossoms that so proudly displayed themselves, perfuming the air with the fragrance of lemon.
Funny, huh? Offended by a flower. I, on the other hand, find them entrancing–enthralling–utterly (as Martha would say) delightful. So they’re a little weird, a little wild, a little “out there”. They’re plants! Another one of those fabulous, freaky things that makes people stop and take notice. No one was stopping to comment on the petunias, mind you. They paid no attention to THOSE at all!
So what is it? It is, my friends, the giant Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia gigantea). It is tropical in its origins, so is grown as annual by most of us. Don’t let that fool you, though. It wasn’t much more than a rooted cutting in a 1-gallon pot when it went in the ground and it was a little slow to start. Leann complained to me more than once that it wasn’t really doing much. “Be patient,” I replied, “The rewards will come later.” I was right. The vine grew and grew until about September and then I got the call.
“Get over here tomorrow!” she said. “It has two buds on it.” I told her I would try, but to be patient still and that there would be much more to come. It wasn’t but a few weeks before the plant burst into flower–40, 50, 60 blooms. Maybe more. Everyone of them was over a foot long and nearly a foot wide. Some were borne singly, others in pairs. Either way, they were no less beautiful or enticing. Though certainly not common, the plant is fairly widely available from specialty nurseries on the internet or through mailorder. It’s a great addition to any garden and is certain to be one of THE most talked about plants you own.