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"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Passion for Passiflora


Ever since I was a child, the passion flower's fragile beauty and intricacy has enchanted. I once lived in a place where it grew wild by the roadside.

Though my current home is inhospitably frigid to grow the species outdoors, I have a large pot in which I can grow passiflora pentafilia (for it's 5-lobed leaves) and overwinter it indoors. Here it is during summertime bloom.



And here is the other variety I grow, passiflora caerulea, with the very deep blue, almost purple fringe.



As seen in this late 17th century botanical print commissioned by the Duchess of Beaufort, both varieties were grown as exotics by aristocratic plant collectors.



The plants were brought to Europe from tropical regions. Jesuit missionaries in Mexico called it the Flower of the Five Wounds for the five stamens, and finding within it other symbols of Christ's crucifixion. Ten petals for the 10 faithful apostles (excluding Judas the Betrayer and Peter the Denier), an inner corona for the Crown of Thorns, three round-headed "nails" and a "hammer" in the center. The flower lasts only a day, and forms a fruit I once knew as a "maypop" because of the noise it made when stepped on.




Over time, additional varieties were discovered, and modern hybrids were created. I used to grow this one, called Lady Margaret. It didn't quite live up to its billing, and the plant didn't thrive like the blue ones. I should give it another chance.



Queen Mary II, an important character in my novel, was known to grow passion flowers in her hothouses or the open air. Which explains why so many of them can be found in the gardens of Het Loo, the palace she and her husband built in Holland--where I photographed the one below.