Friday, December 14, 2012


When I was a horticulture student at Richland College, having to learn the Latin names of every plant was a bit of a nightmare for me. Memorizing useless trivia has never been my forte. My perennials and propagation teacher claimed it wasn't useless trivia. She said the problem with common names was that there was no controlling them -- people in different locations or in different eras could all slap the same common name on several very different plants, so how would you know which one you wanted? I guess I should have paid more attention to her.

They had an amazing vine there in the demonstration gardens that I was crazy mad for, but it wasn't its spring flowers that I loved. I can't even remember what color they were. No, it was the gorgeous papery samaras, which covered it in fall, that made me go weak in the knees. It appeared to be covered in masses of fluttering butterflies, in varying shades of chartreuse and rust, hence the name "Butterfly Vine." I bought one at the department's annual plant sale, and installed it there in our Dallas garden. Unfortunately, it's a slow grower, and we had to move before it ever really took off.

A few years ago, when I was out shopping for plants for the Cantina Garden, I stumbled across a Butterfly Vine, and snapped it right up. For several years now, I've been watching for those "butterflies", but they never appeared. Finally I had to admit that I had planted the wrong vine -- that it may have been a butterfly vine, but it certainly wasn't MY butterfly vine.

A few weeks ago, however, when I was over at Gardenville in San Marcos, getting a truckload of mulch, I spotted these fellows. I recognized them immediately, squealing "There they are! Those are my butterflies!"

I was hoping they had some for sale, but when the manager checked in the greenhouse, there were none left. He did take my name and number though, and promised to call as soon as he got some more cuttings started. Of course, we may not even be living in our house long enough to see the vine reach its full glory, but that's ok. Someday, someone is really gonna love me for my efforts.

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