Landscaping with Versatile Vines

Friday, July 24th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Dig gently to harvest potatoes, a few plants at a time, after foliage yellows and dries up.
    • Colorful petunias will brighten up any flower bed. Their purples, pinks and reds make a real splash when planted in groups of the same color.
    • Dig and divide crowded spring-flowering bulbs and tubers including daffodils, scillas, muscari, and bearded iris.
    • Keep flowers and vegetables in peak condition by giving them a midsummer feeding with a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus than in nitrogen.
    • After the June crop of raspberries is finished, remove canes that produced fruit leaving new green canes, which can then be trained on trellises.

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.

Star jasmine and Carolina jessamine are both evergreen vines. Star jasmine is prized for its wonderful fragrance. It climbs by twining, so will easily grow up a wire fence, but you may have to tie them to a trellis to start them growing up a wood fence.

Carolina jessamine is a twining vine that covers arbors, fences, lampposts and pillars. It’s bright yellow trumpet flowers make an eye-catching display in the spring.

The deciduous clematis have wonderful show of large, colorful flowers in spring or summer. They are ideal on a pergola or trellis in an area where you want to enjoy summer shade or privacy but admit winter sun.

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.

Colorful Climbing Vines

Saturday, October 29th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Garlic cloves can be planted now. Keep them watered and weeded through the winter and you will harvest healthy large bulbs next June.
    • Crimson clover, fava beans and rye grass will fortify your garden soil over the winter. Seed these crops as you compost your summer vegetables.
    • Fragrant Paperwhite narcissus will bloom indoors by Thanksgiving if planted now in rocks and water.
    • Wildflower seed broadcasted with the first rains will take root over the winter and burst into flower next spring.
    • Watch out for Jack Frost! On cold nights, cover summer vegetable plants that are still producing to extend the harvest.

Brilliant Fall Color from Climbing Vines

When it comes to fiery fall foliage, Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) puts on a spectacular show that’s unsurpassed by other deciduous vines.

This is one of the toughest vines around, thriving in poor soils, sun or shade, in both cold and hot climates and either dry or damp soils. This vigorous vine can be used as a groundcover, can shade an arbor or climb a stone or brick wall. This plant provides great cover for small animals because of is thick foliage.

But be careful where you use it, as Virginia Creeper does more than creep: it grows as much as 10 feet a year, and its tendrils will attach themselves to trees or shrubs as easily as fences and walls. It is an excellent covering for walls, trellises, arbors or fences. It may also be grown on the ground to cover old stumps, rock piles and other “eyesores”. As a ground cover it grows about 12 inches high.
Its leaves are made up of 5 leaflets and are up to 6 inches across. While its summer flowers are insignificant, Virginia Creeper produces small, blue-black berries that attract wildlife.

Virginia Creeper is sometimes confused with its close relative, Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata), which has three leaflets, as opposed to Virginia Creeper’s five.

Boston Ivy covers the exterior walls of a number of prestigious northeastern universities and is probably responsible for the term “Ivy League.”

It is a deciduous, self-clinging vine with large glossy leaves 4 to 8 inches across. The color of the leaves changes with the season starting with light green in spring, dark green in summer, and peach to scarlet crimson in fall.

It is also an excellent climber. It can grow and spread 30-60 feet and is one of the fastest growing vines. On buildings a north or east wall works the best, but it will also climb tree trunks, arbors, trellises or retaining walls. It is a tough vine that tolerates urban settings and easily handles most conditions including shade and drought. It will make a thick ground cover about 9 inches high.

Boston Ivy flowers are small, green, and difficult to locate. They develop into blue-black berries on red stalks, which become apparent after the leaves fall. Birds typically consume the berries before winter arrives.

The foliage of Boston Ivy looks similar to maple leaves, especially when it turns deep red in autumn. This ivy makes an excellent backdrop for summer flowers, especially reds, yellows, oranges, and whites.

Fall is an excellent time to plant vines, which will get established over the winter and be ready to take off next spring. So if you need a vigorous vine for a difficult situation, or just want to enjoy the beauty of their fall foliage, consider planting Virginia Creeper or Boston Ivy.

Fall Color in the Garden

Saturday, November 6th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Tulips can paint the spring garden with almost any color you choose. Plant them now to enjoy their bright flowers next April.
    • Compost your leaves as they fall, don’t burn them! Leaves make wonderful compost that breaks down into rich humus by next summer.
    • Chrysanthemums can be planted in pots or flower beds for bright and cheerful flowers to enjoy this fall.
    • Seed slopes with annual ryegrass to prevent erosion and improve the soil for later plantings.
    • Don’t let dahlia bulbs stay in the ground during the winter.  Lift them when the tops have dried.

Fall Color in the Garden

Though many plants pass into winter rather quietly, there are a number of shrubs that end their growing season with a flash of bright colors. Reds, yellows and oranges usher out the last warm days with a cheery farewell.

Japanese barberry is an attractive, red-leaved shrub whose foliage displays a festival of colors before dropping. The leaves turn to yellow, orange and red all on the same plant. It also has bright red berries.

Burning bush is a real eye-catcher. Also known as winged Euonymus, it is a dense, green background shrub that suddenly turns bright red in the fall.

Japanese rose, Kerria japonica, is a graceful large shrub with flowers like small yellow roses in the spring and summer. In autumn, the bright green leaves turn to golden yellow before they fall.

Crape myrtle is well-known for its papery pink, purple or red flowers in the summer. It is also pretty in the fall when the leaves change to yellow, orange and red before they drop.

Heavenly bamboo, Nandina, is a good-looking shrub year-round. In the spring it puts on a lovely display of white flowers that produce berries which turn bright red in the fall. The leaves also take on a reddish hue and both berries and leaves hang on through the winter.

Spiraeas are a large family of shrubs with tiny flowers in clusters. The spring-blooming varieties, like ‘Bridal Wreath’, have long arching branches covered with delicate white flowers. In the fall they are again colorful as the dark green leaves turn to a rich red.

Snowball bush also has lovely fall foliage. This handsome bush is covered with clusters of white flowers that look like snowballs in the spring. In the fall, its leaves become flushed with rosy red before they drop.

Probably the most brilliant red, besides poison oak, comes from Virginia creeper and Boston ivy. These deciduous vines turn a brilliant scarlet when the weather starts to cool. Clinging to a fence, they make a spectacular backdrop to any garden.

Don’t let your garden have the fall blues. Dress it up with the bright reds and yellows of these shrubs and vines.