About five years ago we spent some money turning our backyard into a garden. Where previously there was a hill of sun-baked dirt, roasting in the southwestern sun and in the reflection of the sun on our windows, we built a deck with a shade structure, and planted a jacaranda tree. We planted three vines on the structure - a wisteria, a clematis, and an ornamental grapevine.
This grape, vitis vinifera purpurea, was well known to me from gardening in Seattle. Many gardeners used it, for its beautiful leaves turned bright crimson in the autumn. Seattle gardeners, though were always quick to point out that it was only an ornamental grape - it didn't bear fruit, or, if it did it was inedible.
Well, maybe in Seattle. I should have known that in Southern California's climate, it would be another story. Our grapevine is climbing up the structure and into the jacaranda. Huge, tightly packed bunches of fruit are festooned in the tree's leaves. They hang down through the structure itself, in fat, dark purple clusters.
The fruit is small - not quite as big as the Red Flame seedless grapes you see in the supermarket, and not quite as small as the fancy little so-called "champagne" grapes they sell in high-end food stores or decorate catering tables with.
But they are beautiful - deep blue-purple, with a bloom on them. And rich, sweet, dark juice the color of red wine.