Misplaced Passion

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Four years ago, I was very taken with a passion flower vine a friend had in her back yard. Dense, shiny green foliage and the most breathtaking big, coral blossoms, just the sort of drag-queeny plant I always fall for. I got one and meticulously trained it along our patio fence. And by “meticulously” I mean I spent about twenty minutes one afternoon shoving it into a trellis and then stepped back and wished it a hearty good luck. My gardening techniques may not be a testimony to quiet good taste, but they do show how well autopilot works in a San Francisco yard.

Certainly, the passion flower seems to have taken to benign neglect vigorously. It covered the fence, it covered a big ol’ ligustrum bush, it has sent shoots thirty feet up into the yard to threaten a punky little oleander, and has become the bane of my neighbor’s yard. Brilliant coral flowers appear in the most unlikely spots all over the place. The only location they absolutely refuse to bloom is on the trellis where I trained it. Why? Because it’s perverse, that’s why. Bastard.

By the way, the name passion flower refers not to fleshly lust, but rather to the passion of Our Lord and Savior, Whatshisname. Some doubtlessly repressed Jesuit botanist named it. He saw the vine and flowers in symbolic terms: the pistils representing the crown of thorns, the thirteen petals the apostles, the tendrils the flail they beat him with…. I’m sure he could have worked in Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey, Grumpy, Bashful and all the rest, but probably got so distracted pulling runaway vines out of his neighbor’s iris bed, he just never got around to it.

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