Thursday, May 9, 2013

Lavendar Trumpet Vine

My Aunt Edna called this vine Bluebells because that’s what her mother, Emily Rustenbach, called it. Mrs. Rustenbach had it in her yard in what was then a very rural area whose post office was Cypress, Texas. The Rustenbachs lived on Huffmeister Road, named for one of the early German families that settled the area. Now all of that once country part of Harris County is as complicated as the rest of the sprawling city of Houston, minus only skyscrapers.

I recently found out that he vine is officially called Clytostoma callistegioides (Lavender Trumpet Vine). It is an evergreen vine that grows moderately fast to 15 to 20 feet tall by as wide, climbing up on or clambering over anything that will support it with a dense foliage cover.

According to Texas gardening experts, “Lavendar Trumpet Vine is native to Argentina and southern Brazil. The name for the genus is from the Greek words 'Klytos' meaning "beautiful" and 'stoma' meaning "mouth" in reference to the beautiful open moth shaped flowers. The specific epithet is in reference to this vines similarity to Calystegia, a fast growing vine in the Morning Glory Family, Convolvulaceae. Other common names for this beautiful vine are Chamisso, Painted Trumpet and Argentine Trumpet Vine. The Plant List, the collaboration between The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and Missouri Botanic Gardens lists the current name of this plant as Bignonia callistegioides but we continue to list it as Clytostoma callistegioides until such time that this name gets broader usage.”

Apparently this vine has been documented in California (Santa Barbara) a early as 1895. Some important plant men who have written about it include Harry Butterfield and Dr. Francesco Franceschi and his partner, Peter Riedel.

“A great plant for covering a chain link fence,” the official description declares. I don’t recall the Rustenbachs having a chain link fence, but they certainly had a hog wire fence surrounding their swept garden yard. It’s a long way from Santa Barbara, California to Cypress, Texas, let alone Argentina and Brazil. As it turns out, the origin of this vine is way more exotic than my Aunt Edna imagined. I speculate that Mrs. Rustenbach received the plant as a “pass along” from a friend or neighbor’s garden, and she in turn passed it along to her daughter, probably sometime in the 1950s.

I never got a photograph of Aunt Edna standing near the arbor where the Lavendar Trumpet Vine grows in my Texas garden. This photograph of my mother, Tena Hollis, dates from April of 2006. At this point she was frail with a very tired heart, although you wouldn’t necessarily recognize that from this photograph. On this day, she and my oldest sister, Joan, were headed for a stay in Mother’s house west of Houston. She didn’t feel well, but she agreed to pose for this picture against the backdrop of this lovely vine. In spite of Texas droughts and occasional very hard freezes during some winters, the vine has prospered for 10-plus years in Leon County, Texas—sometimes coming back from the roots. I live away in New Mexico. Life goes on in Leon County. I was delighted by this close-up reminder that I made with my cell phone in April of 2013.

R. Harold Hollis—Albuquerque, NM (May 9, 2013)