April 2013 Plant Profile: Akebia quinata ‘Alba’

April 2nd, 2013 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

Akebia quinata 'Alba' bloom detailWe have an increasing number of vines here at the Center for Urban Horticulture and this particular selection is one that’s been around the longest.

Often dubbed as the “Chocolate Vine”, the typical species flower is generally a deep purple with a gentle, yet deliciously scented blossoms. It is a deciduous and very fast growing vine that will require support. This rare white form (possibly the same as the selection named ‘Shirobana’) is absolutely lovely, but often overlooked.

It can cover the side of walls, spill over banks, climb over just about anything with its pliable and supple vines that can easily be trained and also contained with regular summer pruning of excessive “Whips”.

I’ve yet to see this white-flowered form set fruit, but it should be possible. It produces a large pod with gelatinous fruit with a sweet pulp and many seeds.

 

Akebia quinata 'Alba' The lovely and highly unusual flowers of Akebia with  the large female flower dominating with smaller, but more prolific male flowers that hold the pollen.

Akebia quinata 'Alba' habitHere you can see its habit taking up the corner of NHS Hall at the Center for Urban Horticulture

  

Common Name: White-Flowered Chocolate Vine, White Five-leafed Akebia
Location: CUH-Fragrance Garden, NHS Hall
Origin: China/Japan/Korea
Height and Spread: Can climb 25-30ft.
Bloom Time:  Early Spring

 

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CUH Update April 2010

April 1st, 2010 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

April 2010

It’s finally beginning to feel like spring. Yes, we have our occasional bouts of cool temperatures that threaten the tender young growth steadily coming to the fore, but in true spring fashion, plants flaunt the floral frenzy that this season is known for. A new wave of spring flowering bulbs can be admired and adored here at CUH as they fill the air with their potent perfume. A mass of daffodils and fawn lilies take center-stage in the Fragrance Garden and the Daphnes are still going at it strong as they aren’t only blooming, but also pushing new vegetative growth for more blooms next season!

Nearby NHS Hall, we have a lovely, but often overlooked relative of the kiwi fruit, Akebia quinata ‘Alba’, that is so elegant and deliciously scented, no one really notices it. It is a vigorous deciduous vine (in very mild winters it can be semi-evergreen), but it is easily manageable.

In our efforts to promote and encourage research and education, a section of CUH grounds has been designated for a test plot we’ve referred to as the “Climate Change Garden”. Spear-headed by Prof. Soo-Hyung Kim, his graduate students and CUH grounds staff have begun to install beds that will feature genetically identical species selected for their biological responsiveness to temperature. Read more about it here.

Things are picking up momentum as I type so I’m eager to get outside and get on top of our cutting back and dive into some serious weeding. If we have a break in the weather, the Soest lawn is crying out for another haircut!

Ornamental grasses have begun to push their new growth so it’s time to get most of them cut back to allow them to develop. As always, we use our hedge trimmers to shear the grasses down to make the job go more quickly. Those trimmers are then put to use on the hedges themselves as our stunning Osmanthus delavayi also gets a haircut following their wonderfully scented white blooms.

April is also the month we turn on our irrigation system. In the next couple of weeks, the irrigation crew from UW Campus will meet with our irrigation specialist, Annie Billota, to check that heads are working properly and we cover the areas we need to be watered. We then set the frequency and just tweak it during the season as needed.

It is an absolutely great time to visit CUH as there’s so much to see, smell and admire. As many gardeners begin to brainstorm for their landscapes this year, our gardens are a wealth of ideas and fascinating plants!

Riz

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