Have you stopped laughing yet?
Indeed, is there a gardener alive who has not made mistakes. For some of us at least, it is chiefly the way we learn.
But surely I must be the Queen of Mistakes when it comes to gardening. I mean I have made some real whoppers over the years. It's unlikely though that any are worse than the one I made this spring.
I was at the largest nursery in the Houston area, one which has branches all over town and in the suburbs. (It shall be nameless here, but anyone who lives here will know to which one I am referring.) I was picking up several plants to fill in gaps in my garden and I saw this table of healthy looking vines - pipevines, in fact. I wanted a pipevine to replace mine that had died the previous year, so I got one. I am unable to locate the label that was in the pot but my recollection is that all it said was Dutchman's pipevine.
It was a really nice plant and I brought it home and introduced it to its new home, and boy, did it like it here! It grew like crazy. I kept looking for it to bloom, but it never did. Until last week. I noticed these swelling buds on the plant. I included a picture of them in my Bloom Day post.
My lovely pipevine - just about to bloom.
After I took that picture and looked at it later, I began to have some misgivings. It didn't quite look like the buds of the pipevines I had grown previously.
Then the buds opened and I knew something different was happening here.
My Dutchman's Pipe vine in full bloom this week.
Uh oh, I thought, that really is not what I was expecting. I turned to my friend Google for information and that's where I learned that the plant I had purchased was Aristolochia gigantea, not Aristolochia tomentosa or A. macrophylla.
I had not even been aware that A. gigantea existed here - or at all, for that matter. It is a native of Brazil, and here's the kicker: In spite of its exotic beauty and its relationship to our native pipevines, its leaves are deadly to the larvae of the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly!
Now, the only reason I had bought the plant for my habitat garden was to serve as a host plant for the Pipevine Swallowtail, but inadvertently, through my ignorance, I had given any swallowtail larva that hatched on the leaves of this plant a death sentence. For, unfortunately, the Pipevine Swallowtail female cannot discern the difference and she will lay her eggs on it, thinking it is an appropriate host plant.
I do have Pipevine Swallowtails visiting my garden, though not in as great numbers as previous years, and I checked the leaves of the plant but did not find any eggs or small larvae, so perhaps it is not too late.
Now, I have to do one of the most distasteful things a gardener ever has to do - pull out and destroy a perfectly healthy and beautiful plant. All because I made a stupid mistake and was not as careful in my purchases as I should have been. Mea culpa and one more lesson learned.