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.

Spring is Blossom Time

Friday, May 9th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Gladiolus make wonderful cut flowers throughout the summer. Plant some every two weeks for continuous blooms.
    • It’s time to put out oriole feeders. You can also attract them with fresh orange halves.
    • Flower seeds can be sown directly in the garden now. Cosmos, marigolds and zinnias will give you beautiful flowers all summer.
    • Plant the vegetable garden this month, but remember that late frosts can still nip tender young plants.
    • Petunias can’t be beat for large, colorful blooms all summer long.

Sensational Wisteria

One of our most long-lived and reliable vines is the wisteria. Trained over an arbor or trellis with its long clusters of fragrant flowers almost covering the plant, it is truly a glorious sight.

Wisteria are hardy, vigorous, twining vines that have many landscape uses. They live for many years and can climb to great heights by means of twining stems. Older, established plants may have a twisted, woody trunk several inches in diameter.

Wisteria can be trained on a variety of supports. The important thing is that they are strong. As a wisteria grows, its trunk and branches become thick and heavy, sometimes outliving and replacing its support. They can be supported on trellises, hung from eaves (though they will try to creep into the house), espaliered on a fence or allowed to climb a tree. Make sure that the twining wisteria stems don’t girdle young trees.

Wisteria can also be trained to a standard, or tree shape, when young. They need to be pruned heavily in winter and have the long shoots removed throughout the summer to keep them from becoming vines.

There are two types of wisteria: Chinese and Japanese. The Chinese is the more common with 12-inch flower clusters that open all at once. The Japanese wisteria has very long clusters, 18-36 inches, and the flowers open in succession giving a longer, but less spectacular bloom. The most common flowers of both kinds are violet-blue, but white and pink forms are also available. Chinese wisteria will bloom in considerable shade while Japanese wisteria needs full sun.

Under normal conditions wisteria should bloom every spring. Sometimes a hard, late frost will kill the flower buds and lessen the bloom. Grafted plants should bloom within two years of planting. Plants which are grown from seed often do not bloom for 10 to 15 years or longer. A plant will also fail to bloom: if it does not receive enough sunlight; if it has been stimulated by excess nitrogen fertilizer; or if it has been pruned too heavily or improperly pruned.

If your wisteria is over 5 years old and hasn’t bloomed, try this: in late spring, dig a ditch around the vine 2 to 3 feet from its base and 18 inches deep. Mix 2 lbs. of superphosphate in with the soil and refill the trench. This combined root pruning and high-bloom fertilizer should help it bloom by next year. Do not allow suckers to sprout from the base of any wisteria, since the best varieties are grafted and suckers come from the rootstock.

Wisteria is grown primarily for the beauty of its showy, deliciously fragrant flowers. Its rapid growth rate makes it a good choice when fast coverage is desired.