One of the many joys of gar­den­ing is that you get to exper­i­ment, explore and take risks. Often the cost is no more than a cou­ple of dollars—the price of a pack­age of seeds. This is the fru­gal side of gar­den­ing. (I can also show you the excep­tion­ally non-frugal side of gar­den­ing, but that, my friends, is a story for another blog post.) One of this year’s exper­i­ments in my gar­den was the cup and saucer vine (Cobea scan­dens).

cup and saucer vine Cobea scandens 2

The flow­ers on the cup and saucer vine begin as pale green lanterns and open to ivory or deep pur­ple flowers.

I don’t recall if this is one of the seed pack­ages I pur­chased or if it was included in a free­bie pack­age from Botan­i­cal Inter­ests, one of my favorite seed com­pa­nies. It seems like some­thing I would order because the descrip­tion promised this vine would 1) be a quick grow­ing, 2) grow up to 25 feet in a sin­gle sea­son 3) have flow­ers that open pale green and mature to ivory or deep pur­ple and 4) have a sweet scent.

Appar­ently the only thing this vine doesn’t do is grow hun­dred dol­lar bills on every other vine.

cup and saucer vine Cobea scandens

Before the flow­ers open they resem­ble small, green lanterns.

I like the idea of a quick-growing, dec­o­ra­tive vine as part of cre­at­ing sum­mer shade over the chicken run. The chick­ens have a cov­ered porch that allows them to get out of the rain or to shel­ter from the blaz­ing sun. But in the sum­mer some dap­pled shade over the rest of the run would improve the com­fort fac­tor in the rest of the run as well as shade their water cooler.

So how did the cup and saucer vine perform?

I’m think­ing of start­ing my own rat­ing sys­tem. For now, let’s base the rat­ing sys­tem on stars. I’ll fancy up the idea later.

What should my per­sonal rat­ing sys­tem include? An over­all rat­ing, cer­tainly. Beauty? Yes, I do think beauty is impor­tant. Pest/disease resis­tance in my gar­den? Yes indeed, that seems like a good idea too. I am over hav­ing pow­dery mildew on lilacs and Japan­ese bee­tles on pole beans. Toxicity/safety? This might not be impor­tant to some gar­den­ers, but it is impor­tant to me if I’m going to grow it over the chicken coop. I found a handy list of toxic/non-toxic plants assem­bled by the Cal­i­for­nia Poi­son Con­trol Sys­tem. The cup and saucer vine is, appar­ently, non-toxic—at least to humans. I didn’t find it listed as toxic to chick­ens any­where else on the Inter­net. And in my bold exper­i­ment here it is, appar­ently, non-toxic since the chick­ens have kept the lower parts of the vines pecked clean of leaves and flowers.

What else? Scent? Use­ful­ness? Edi­bil­ity? Okay, we’ll go with that for now.

Chicken coop with cup and saucer vine

The cup and saucer vine cov­ers the left side of the out­door run. The vine on the right climb­ing over the coop roof is a sweet autumn clema­tis, which will be cov­ered in tiny white flow­ers in the fall.

So, here is my rat­ing for the cup and saucer plant on a four-star (for now) rat­ing system.

***    Beauty — The flow­ers cer­tainly are beau­ti­ful, although they are some­what sub­tle. This is not a vine that will draw your eye from a dis­tance as some clema­tis do, for exam­ple. **** Pest/disease resis­tance — No com­plaints here. The Japan­ese bee­tles are com­pletely unin­ter­ested. The vine doesn’t show any signs of dis­ease or other prob­lems this year. **** Safety/non-toxicity — Cour­tesy of the Cal­i­for­nia Poi­son Con­trol Sys­tem and my own bold exper­i­ment. **      Scent — The flow­ers do have a mildly sweet scent, but you need to stick your nose right into it to smell it. **** Use­ful­ness — This is a work horse-type vine because it grows so quickly, pro­vid­ing a nice screen where needed in the sum­mer heat. *        Edi­bil­ity — You can’t eat it (I don’t think). Well, you can’t have every­thing. **** Over­all — A grand four-star rating.

The big­ger ques­tion might be, would I grow the cup and saucer vine again? Yes! And I would also rec­om­mend it to other gar­den­ers. It’s an easy, robust and pleas­ing vine. All for the cost of a pack­age of seeds.

 

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