I'm still here!-- not frozen in place or blown away with the snow, just being a little hermit-like while spending time poking seeds into little containers of potting mix, my futile attempt at hurrying spring.
Dark green leaves with purple veins, & lavender, white & pink flowers on Hyacinth Bean vine, growing last summer at my local Botanical Garden.
Last year I wrote about growing Hyacinth Bean vine (Lablab purpureus, formerly Dolichos lablab). So desperate I must've been to grow something green, I started the seeds indoors in late January, many weeks before I should've. I spent the rest of winter nursing them along indoors until, finally, I was able to plant them out the first of May. Their growing days were severely numbered though. An unusually late snow fell on May 3, damaging or killing all but one of my little vines.
Showing the underside of one of the purple-veined leaves, top left, variation in bloom color & deep purple stems that hold the sweet-pea-like flowers of Hyacinth Bean vine.
Fortunately, the gardeners at the botanical garden in my city were much luckier than I (or simply planned better). Their specimens of Hyacinth Bean were thriving in full sun on a scorching day when I took these photos late last summer.
Flowers of Hyacinth Bean point upward as late summer bean pods drape downward.
A tropical vine grown as a tender annual, Hyacinth Bean rapidly grows to around 12 feet tall, appearing full & established within mere weeks. Purple flowers resembling sweet peas bloom in mid-summer followed by deep purple seed pods hanging from thick purple tendrils. The leaves have deep purple veins, most easily seen from the underside.
Clusters of purple beans & a view of the pretty purple veining on the underside of a leaf.
At the end of the season, the purple seed pods dry & turn brown. They pods can then be collected & the seeds saved for planting the following year.
Hyacinth Bean twines through a trellis covering a sunny wall.
Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost. Once all threat of frost is gone, plant the vines outdoors in full sun providing them with a climbing support. Keep the soil consistently moist until the young vines are established. Fertilize throughout the season, at least once a month.
Bamboo poles form a tepee covered in Hyacinth Bean vine making a shady playhouse for children at the Fullerton Arboretum in Fullerton, CA. Instructions are available HERE. photo: Sunset.com
Hyacinth Bean has become very popular with modern gardeners but is hardly ubiquitous... yet. You'll still have friends & neighbors asking what it is & where to find seeds.
It's a wonderful old-fashioned addition to the garden. Beside being easy-to-grow & a hardworking shade provider, it comes with a bit of interesting history. It was first introduced in Europe in the 1700s & was in American nurseries by the early 1800s. In 1812, Thomas Jefferson recorded planting "Arbor beans, white, scarlet, crimson, purple..." at his home, Monticello, and though he doesn't specify this species, gardeners at Monticello say that by 1804 Hyacinth Bean was available through Jefferson's favorite nurseryman, Bernard McMahon, & they believe that the "purple" bean Jefferson refers to may have been the Hyacinth Bean vine (var. Dolichos Lablab, now renamed Lablab Purpureus). Today, Hyacinth Bean vine is grown in the Monticello kitchen garden. The beans are said to be edible when young, but poisonous as they age. I choose to avoid potential trouble in that department & grow them strictly as ornamentals.
Hyacinth Bean vine seedlings growing in my kitchen.
Confident that my luck will be better than last year, little Hyacinth Bean vines are once again growing near my sunny kitchen windows, just waiting patiently for spring.
Online, Hyacinth Bean seeds can be found here (Amazon), and here from The Shop at Monticello. Seeds are also found at many garden local centers.
All photos by me, except otherwise noted.