It occurred to me today that counting new shoots might be a good way to monitor the flowering potential of the vanillery. I was inspecting the vines and thinking about ways to quantify the success of each planting. For each cutting we planted, most sprouted one new shoot, a few more than one. Enough time has passed so that some of the original new shoots have thrown off new shoots themselves. Since each node of the vanilla plant can either grow a new shoot or flower once (if at all), it is necessary to keep the vines constantly growing. Maintaining a good number of growing tips means more potential flowering locations for the next season.
First year vines are smooth and soft to the touch, especially the growing tip, which is quite soft and tender. As the vines age, they get darker, harder and end up being quite sturdy with a dull, waxy sheen. In the first year, the vines are going for distance, tending to climb as high as possible without wasting energy on side shoots. In the second or third season, the mature nodes are likely to branch or flower if there is sufficient vitality.
In march of 2015, I counted 38 growing tips in the vanillery.