Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An amazing Nellie Kelly

In March of this year our group visited Mark & Judy's food garden at Lindisfarne.  Everyone who came that day will remember the spectacular Passion Fruit that was all over Mark's workshop.  At the time I wondered whether this was perhaps the largest Passion Fruit in Tasmania, if not Australia.  This is how it looked:

Last week I contacted Mark & Judy and suggested we do a blog post regarding this amazing plant and that is when I heard the bad news.  I asked Mark & Judy:

What happened?
Judy thinks it died of shock when Mark used it to break his fall off his workshop roof (Mark is fine, now), but Mark is certain they only have a life of about 7 years and as this one had been in the ground for around 10 years, so it just died a natural death.

Does this mean that Passion Fruit always have a limited life span?
Yes, this is the third one we have planted in that spot in 30 years.

What made this plant so successful, in other words, what is your secret?
It is in the right spot, a north-facing wall, sheltered, with lots of sun.  Regular feeding with weak worm tea, lots of water in summer, and a few banana peels also help.

What variety was this and do other varieties live longer?
It was a grafted black passion fruit, a Nellie Kelly (see photo).  They are the best.  Banana Passion Fruit is another type, but they almost become a weed if not kept under control, and the fruit is not as juicy as a black Passion Fruit.

Did it produce more fruit as it grew bigger or was it just leaf and little fruit in the end?
It cropped every year, loads and loads of fruit, without fail.

The wall of your shed must look empty now.  Will you put another one in the same spot?
The wall has been painted!  It looks incredibly bare, but a new Nellie was planted on Sunday.

Any recommendations for people who want to give Passion Fruit a try?
Put it in a sheltered northerly position.  Old timers suggest a dead possum in the hole before you plant a Passion Fruit works best.  Being short on dead possums we just popped in some blood & bone, compost and potash.

Thank you, Mark & Judy, for this inspiring story!


  1. Hi

    My last 2 passion fruit plants have been disasters. Lots of growth, but as it turns out, all from the root stock. Any hints so that it might be third time lucky??



  2. In reply to Darryl's question: 'Nellie Kelly' is the name of the most successful grafted passion fruit. The graft is put on sturdy root stock of a different variety that does not produce very nice fruit. After planting a new Nellie Kelly, keep an eye on it and remove any growth coming from below the graft. The graft should take off eventually, unless there is something wrong. Keep the receipt when you buy the Nellie Kelly. Good nurseries will be prepared to refund you if your Nellie Kelly fails. Hope this helps. Cheers, Max Bee