Landscaping with Versatile Vines

Monday, July 26th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Dig gently to harvest potatoes, a few plants at a time, after foliage yellows and dries up.
    • Roses need water and fertilizer to keep blooming through the summer. Watch for pests and diseases and treat as soon as you see trouble.
    • Birdbaths will attract our feathered friends to your backyard so you can enjoy them close-up. Place them a few feet from a bushy shrub to give the birds protection.
    • Zinnias love the heat and will add a rainbow of color to your garden and the deer don’t like them.
    • Garlic should be harvested when the leafy tops turn yellow and fall over; air-dry bulbs, remove tops and store bulbs in a cool place.

Solve Landscaping Problems with Vines

All vines scramble or climb, but that’s where their similarity ends. You can grow vines for shade, for food, or for beauty of foliage, bloom or fruit. Vines range from tough, woody grapes, wisterias and trumpet vines to annuals like morning-glories and sweet peas. Add in clematis, ivies and Virginia creeper and you have lots to work with.

Are you bothered by an unsightly view? Vines can be used to cover up unsightly views or structures. Does your deck or patio broil in the noonday sun? A vine planted to grow over an overhead structure can provide welcome, cooling shade much quicker than a tree can.

Vines are used to soften and connect the hard edges between structures and plants in a garden. Wisteria or grapes can be used to cover a sturdy trellis linking the house with the garden. Or they can climb over an arch or pergola to form a green entrance or walkway. The drooping clusters of wisteria’s fragrant flowers are beautiful in the spring.

Plant vines to screen unsightly walls or views. A well placed vine can provide the same amount of privacy as a tall shrub, while taking up less horizontal space. For this purpose, be sure to choose evergreen vines, and train them to cover a trellis thickly. You can also extend the height of a typical 4-6′ privacy fence by adding trellising materials and an evergreen vine.

Virginia creeper, which attaches itself to walls with little suction cups, is excellent for covering plain walls or fences. In the fall, it turns a brilliant scarlet before dropping its leaves. Climbing hydrangea is a large vine that also climbs with suction cups. Its white flowers are very showy in summer in partial shade, though the vines will tolerate full shade, but bloom less.

Star jasmine or Carolina jessamine are very attractive planted by lampposts and pillars. They are both evergreen and will eventually cover the post completely.

The deciduous clematis have wonderful displays of flowers in spring or summer. They can be used to climb fences and trellises.

A chain-link fence can be turned into a beautiful green wall with vines. Orange trumpet vine or Virginia creeper will give a lush green look all summer but be bare in winter. Ivy or evergreen clematis will hide the fence permanently. Honeysuckle is partly deciduous but covers well and spreads its lovely fragrance over a large area.

Annual vines are generally overlooked for their landscaping qualities. Planting annual vines on fences, gates and other structures quickly brings an established look to a young garden. Create summer shade on a porch with a string trellis covered with vines. Try morning-glories, scarlet runner beans, and moonflower for eye-catching summer color. Hops vines make a beautiful green covering but die to the ground each winter.

Look to versatile vines to help solve many of your landscaping problems.

Happy Mother’s Day

Friday, May 8th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Mother’s Day is the perfect time to give a living plant as a gift. Rhododendrons, lilacs, hanging fuchsias and ivy geraniums are sure to please her.
    • Beautiful African Violets will decorate your indoor spaces with their masses of flowers in all shades of purple, blue and pink.
    • Flower seeds can be sown directly in the garden now. Cosmos, nasturtiums, marigolds and zinnias will give you beautiful flowers all summer.
    • Plant an herb garden in a container near the kitchen door for convenient fresh spices like basil, oregano, parsley and thyme.
    • When you plant your vegetable garden, why not grow a little extra to donate to the food bank this summer.

Clematis: Queen of the Vines

Clematis are the aristocrats of the flowering vines. With over 300 species and many hybrids, this group of mostly woody, climbing vines has a lot to offer the gardener.

Their flowers span the color spectrum. The large-flowered cultivars range in color from rich reds, purples, and blues to pale pink and white. The smaller flowered “montana” varieties cover themselves with masses of pink or white fragrant blooms early in the season. And the evergreen clematis, with its profusion of starry-white blooms, carries a heavy fragrance.

There is a clematis to enhance any garden, no matter how large or small. Some varieties, if left to wander, will easily grow to 30 feet, while others mature at 6 to 8 feet. Many hybrid varieties mature at 8 to 12 feet, and are stunning on a fan trellis.

Clematis do not climb by tendrils, but instead by gently twining their leaf petioles around nearby supports, including plant stems, branches, wires, small poles and themselves. They do not cling to walls and, without support, will ramble until they find something suitable to climb on. In the wild, clematis are often found growing at the woods’ edge, where their tops can reach full sun and their roots remain in the shade.

Selecting the right place for clematis is important for its success. Clematis thrive where the vines receive sun for at least six hours a day with cool, moist soil for the roots. Morning sun is preferable. Plant vines in the shade of a small shrub or plant a groundcover or perennial over the root area to shade the soil.

Clematis can be planted deep and actually benefit from having the crown buried up to four inches below the surface of the soil. This helps the plant recover from dormant buds below the soil, if the top of the plant is damaged.

Begin feeding clematis in early spring, as soon as the new shoots start to grow. A generous mulch of garden compost mixed with well-rotted manure and a handful of bone meal is a good recipe. You can substitute a general purpose fertilizer for the manure if you prefer.

Keep the mulch away from the stems. During the summer months, fertilize with a liquid fertilizer twice a month until mid-August. After that, the plants need time to slow down and harden off for the winter.

Pruning clematis vines is somewhat complicated. Keep track of the names of the varieties you plant so that you can ask for help at your local nursery. Proper pruning will create masses of flowers that cover the plants at bloom time. Improper pruning will delay flowering, and no pruning will leave you with a tangled mass of stems but plenty of flowers.

The first spring after planting, all clematis should be cut back just as you see leaf buds developing. Cut above two sets of buds on each stem. This will thicken the stems and encourage proper root development.

Clematis will reward you with an abundance of beautiful blossoms for many years. To see a clematis in full bloom is to understand why it is often called “the queen of the flowering vines”.