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The Darling Buds of … July?

After a beautiful sunny June, July started with a crash of thunder and ten days of almost solid rain, torrential like the wet season. Much to the horror of the tourists.
We were quite pleased for 3 days, as we needed some rain, but became more concerned as it continued. Vanilla likes 80% humidity, but isn’t impressed by perpetual rain.
The weather has turned cold as well. Bitter, numbing cold at night, it must drop below 20C!
This has been enough to convince some of the vanilla that it is flowering season, and almost 20% of the vines we forecast to flower in September are already bursting with bud. Including some who have no business flowering, we are even getting flowers on the up shoots instead of the down!
This is good news, as it spreads the flowering period over a longer timescale and just makes it easier to handle. On the downside, many of the young shoots have rotted off in the rain. Not really a problem, because they regenerate and often replace one with two, which doubles production. Indeed, we have been conducting an experiment to prune the tops of some strong vines to get more branches. I am beginning to suspect that our shade trees are just as important for protecting from rain as from the sun.
Vanilla is clearly feminine. Consider: she is beautiful, with a divine scent. Thrives with a strong partner, never suffocating him. Responds well to presents of moisture and liquid fertiliser, doesn’t like wet feet at all. Doesn’t like exposure or abuse, but thrives when well cared for and is wonderfully fertile. But she is totally unpredictable, likely to do the most unexpected things, always with a willing heart.
She is immensely valuable.
How we love her.

Rex Sumner


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