While the first vanilla pods of the season are coming in, the first flower buds are also appearing. Some of these spurts of new growth will result in new vines, branching off of the mature vines, but most of these will form the flowering racemes. The early spring is when a lot of new growth occurs, and the vanilla farmer (me) watches with some apprehension as the flowering racemes appear (or not!) determining the size of the new season’s crop. In a week or so, the morning ritual of the hand pollination will begin.
The flowering season of 2014 was light for us, several areas never went to flower, so the 2015 harvest season will be small. One of the things we’ve learned about vanilla is that while it will grow lush and green in the shade, it requires part sun to come to flower. As the forest grows around the vines, they can end up in shade too deep to flower. This year, I cleared branches above and around the forest trellises to let more light in. We’re hoping for a better flowering season this year, and indeed it’s starting strongly.