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Have you ever had your day take a completely different turn than you anticipated?  Mine certainly did, and it all started with a discovery behind the lilac vine.


My day was off to a great start.  I didn’t have any appointments or looming writing deadlines.  Couple that with a weather forecast in the 70’s, I decided to spend a few hours working in the garden.

Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae) back in February.
 
One of the things that I needed to do was to prune back my purple lilac vines now that they were finished flowering.  They just needed a little light pruning to keep them from growing into my new lemon tree.
 
While I was pruning the vines, my little dog, Tobey, was trying desperately to get underneath one of the vines.  I assumed that it was a lizard, but I couldn’t call him off.
 
 
Now, Tobey, is our little rescue dog who thinks that he is big and tough, but truth be told, he’s not.  But, when I had to carry him inside because he wouldn’t leave the vine alone, I suspected that there might be something else going on.
 
 
I slowly approached the vine and heard something growl.  Concerned that there may be an injured animal, I slowly parted the leaves, and a cat ran out and jumped over the fence.
 
At this point, I assumed that it was a feral cat and that the problem was solved. 
 
But, I heard some rustling sounds and thought that I could see some movement in the dark confines of the vine’s branches.  So, I ran inside to grab a flashlight so that I could see better.  The problem was, that while we had plenty of flashlights, all their batteries were dead.
So, I decided to use the flashlight on my cell phone to see what was making the sounds at the base of the vine.
 
I slowly parted the leaves and saw what looked like little rats.
 
 
But, closer examination showed them to be newly born kittens.
 
 
I could hardly believe it!
 
 
They were just darling, and I tried to count how many there were.  I think that there were four, but it might have been three.
 
 
I went back inside so the mama cat could come back.  She hopped to the top of the wall and waited to be sure that there weren’t any humans or dogs nearby before climbing down and disappearing into the vines.
 
 
So what will we do?  
 
I talked to my sister who has worked with feral cats in the past.  It turns out they are incredibly self-sufficient.  We’ll probably wait until the kittens are weaned and then trap the mother and get her spayed and then re-release her.
 
As for now, I need to break the news about the furry bundles behind the vines to my husband (who sleeps during the day) and the kids once they come home after school.  
 
 
In the meantime, the dogs have been banished to the side yard for the time being, much to their dismay…
 

I love using vines in the garden.


I have pink bower vine growing in my entry, purple lilac vine growing up the walls in my back garden and pink trumpet vine by my vegetable garden.


But, did you know that you can grow some vines as a groundcover?

Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violaceae)

Years ago, I started using purple lilac vines as groundcovers in the feature areas along golf courses.


I was surprised at how well they did.  We pruned them back once they were finished flowering and then a little if needed.

Eleven years later, they are still growing along the golf course and look great.
Purple lilac vine is my favorite vine.  The reasons are that they bloom in February and have beautiful, green leaves throughout the entire year.  They do need a trellis for support if growing along a wall.

Unlike their common name, however, they don’t smell like lilacs.  



Even when not in flower, their bright green foliage adds beauty and a visually cooling element to the landscape.

**When purchasing vines, I recommend buying them during their bloom season because they aren’t always stocked in the nursery when they aren’t in flower.

A word of caution when growing vines.  Some vines can become invasive – particularly in humid areas with mild winters.  However, this is rarely a problem in the desert Southwest because of our arid climate.

Well after a short break, I am here to showcase a lesser-known plant for you to try in your garden.  

Today, my garden is enjoying copious amounts of rain. In the desert, the arrival of rain is something that is usually celebrated. Furthermore, add to that the fact that we have had a rather dry winter, I am very happy to be stuck inside today.

I am very excited to show you this lesser-known plant.  

Are you ready?  Drum roll please…

Isn’t it beautiful?
 
This Australian native is known by different common names with Purple Lilac Vine (Hardenbergia violacea) being commonly used in our area of the Southwest.  
 
It is not actually a lilac, but because we cannot grow lilacs in the low desert, this is a wonderful substitute.
 
 
My first experience in using Purple Lilac was over 10 years ago where I used it in a feature area on one of the golf courses I worked for.
Although traditionally, used as a vine, I used it as a ground cover and believe it or not, it did beautifully.  
One of the best attributes of this vine is that it blooms during the month of February in our zone 9 gardens.  
Now be honest, there is not much going on in your garden this month, is there? Wouldn’t it be great to have gorgeous purple flowers blooming right now?
Here are more reasons to try out this vine in your garden:

Flowers in winter.

When not in flower, attractive leaves cover the vine year round.

Fairly low-maintenance.  Prune to control size if needed.  Supplemental fertilizer is usually not needed.

Requires a trellis or other support to grow upwards.

Hardy to zone 9.

Under normal winter temperatures, does not suffer frost damage.

Can be used as a screen.  For example, it will climb along a fence, blocking the view of what is inside.

   
When people ask me if I recommend a particular plant, I tell them that the highest commendation that I can give is that I have that plant growing in my garden.
You see, I do not have the patience to grow a plant that struggles and/or takes too much maintenance.  It also has to look beautiful most of the year.
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So if you ask me if I truly like this vine, I answer by saying that I have four growing in my backyard 🙂
 
**One complaint that I have hear often is that it can be hard to find in your local nursery. Don’t worry, most nurseries normally have them in stock when they are in flower in winter.  

So if you would like to try this beautiful vine in your garden; go to your nursery now.  If you wait too long, you may have to wait until next year before you find another one to plant.

**It’s important to note that although the flowers look a bit like lilacs, they are not particularly fragrant.

I find joy in the simple things and that includes my garden as well.

Yesterday, as I was preparing for my daughter’s 12th birthday party, I realized that I wanted to have a vase full of flowers to decorate the table.  I had no time to go to the store, so I ran outside and clipped some blooms from my flowering shrubs and one of my vines.

 
The flowers of Desert Senna, Globe Mallow and Purple Lilac Vine.
Although, there were not too many plants blooming, I was happy to have found three types of flowers that would look nice together in a bouquet.
Yes, my bouquet was simple and decidedly un-formal, but that describes me perfectly.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to bring my blooming garden inside.
And so…I plan to create a simple bouquet from the flowers of my garden each month.  I am looking forward to seeing how my bouquets will change as my garden changes through the months.

Anyone care to join me?  Even in winter, small branches from a flowering fruit tree or witch hazel would be beautiful.

 

Well, I can’t believe that this is my 100th blog post and that some of you are still reading my blog…. ;^)

I have enjoyed meeting so many of my fellow gardeners and those who want to learn how to garden.  I have met people not just from Arizona, but around the country and all over the world.  It just blows my mind how many of us there are, who love to garden and visit beautiful gardens.

The day after I started my blog, I joined Blotanical, which has been such a wonderful place to belong.  I have met many fellow gardeners and have visited their beautiful gardens through their blogs.  I highly encourage those of you who have not visited, to stop by Blotanical…a whole new world awaits you.

In honor of my 100th post, I would like to share with you one of my favorite vines….

 
This is one of six Purple Lilac Vines (Hardenbergia violaceae) that I have in my garden.   
 
You can see why it is called Purple Lilac Vine.  The flowers mimic lilacs, but have no fragrance.  They flower in February, when there are few other flowers in the garden.
It does require a trellis or other type of support to climb up against a wall.  

 
Today, when I went outdoors to take these pictures, the bees were happily buzzing about the flowers, greedily gathering pollen.
There is nothing not to love about this vine.  It does not suffer from frost damage in my zone 8b and so is evergreen.  It handles the heat very well, has no thorns and is absolutely beautiful.
 

Long ago….okay about 10 years ago, I planted the vines as a groundcover along the golf course and they worked so well, that I bought some to grow as groundcovers in my own garden.

 
Even when out of flower, they are just beautiful.  They need no special attention.  I do not fertilize them and only prune them every couple of years or so.
And so, this is my type of plant….low-maintenance and beautiful!

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and letting me know what you think in your comments.  I am excited to see what the next 100 posts bring!