Choosing and Planting Vines in Your Garden

by : Hege Crowton

Vines can be the quick salvation of the new home owner. Fast-paced annuals will twine up a hastily erected pergola almost before summer starts, providing a cool, fragrant and beautiful awning.

Annuals and perennials (or hardy vines, as perennials are called) are an inexpensive way of softening the lines of new buildings, linking them to the landscape.

Decorative and functional, vines are often the answer for older homes as well; the ground-covering varieties serving as cover for foundations and banks, others spreading a carpet of flowering greenery over walls, making fences seem friendlier and stone buildings less harsh.

The methods by which vines climb will necessarily influence and determine your selection. Some vines, such as grape vine, have tendrils which reach out and grasp small objects to hold on to; these vines need a lattice or fence.

Others, such as Boston ivy, have adhesive discs that fasten on to a brick or stone wall, and still others, such as the climbing hydrangea, hold to a masonry wall with small, aerial rootlets.

Finally, there are those that climb by twining around other branches or poles, climbing from left to right, or right to left (like honeysuckle). This type can be parasitic in the worst sense, climbing over small bushes and trees and completely strangling them.

No vine should be unsupported, however, and attractive vines are those which are carefully trained and held up. Supports such as arbours, trellises and pergolas need not be elaborately constructed, since their function is to display the vine, not themselves.

Wood or other material that does not require painting is ideal, for the natural woods are really more suitable as a background for vines than are the painted ones.

If you have a wooden house and want vines on the walls, it is a good idea to construct a detachable trellis, hinged at the bottom so that it can swing outward when painting is going on. There will be sufficient flexibility in the tendrils to allow this.

If you are planting annuals, ordinary digging in well-drained soil should suffice. But if you are planting perennials, you will want to plant them as well as any shrub; remember that if they are planted close to the foundation, the soil may be poor initially and may need preparation.

The hole should be at least 2 feet square. Break up the bottom soil and mix in bone meal, peat moss, etc.

If you are planting near the house, be careful to place the vine far enough from the overhanging eaves so that water will not drip on the leaves. In winter weather, wet leaves can freeze in the evening and crack.

Also, if the vines are placed against a sunny wall they will get reflective heat, and so they should receive extra watering in hot weather.

For covering walls of houses, boulders, stone walls, etc., the ivies are, of course, used more than other vines. Boston ivy is the quickest growing. Japanese bittersweet [Euonymus radicands) is a good vine for walls, too; evergreen, it grows well on the north sides of buildings as well as on exposed locations.

Winter-creeper, in both large and small-leaved varieties, is a hardy vine for wall planting, and other vines that can cling without aid to concrete, brick and stone include Chinese trumpet creeper, English ivy, Lowe ivy and Virginia creeper, sometimes called woodbine or American ivy.

Virginia creeper is the ivy that twines around trees and covers the ground in woodlands, and while it makes a good building cover, it does become heavy and require thinning out as it grows older. Virginia creeper is also effective for providing shade. (Other shade-producing vines are grape, Dutchman's pipe and silver vine.)

Many vines which are not self-supporting can be trellis-trained, and can add color and beauty to a house.

Among the more showy varieties are wisteria, with its clusters of white to purple blossoms; clematis, which has a large flower appearing from early summer until fall; and trumpet creeper, with its tropical-looking clusters of big scarlet and orange flowers during late summer.

There is also trumpet honeysuckle, which has clusters of red and yellow perfumed flowers; and climbing hydrangea, with its large white clusters.

Some of the annual vines, such as the hyacinth bean which grows on strings and has many flowers, or the scarlet runner bean which has showy flowers, are good for shade, too.

For covering banks and ground where you have difficulty with grass, you might try periwinkle (also called running myrtle), an evergreen which has blue flowers all summer. Another evergreen is pachysandra, mentioned elsewhere; and there is moneywort which flattens against the ground.

Some attractive and fragrant-blossoming annuals that you might also consider are: nasturtium; balloon vine, which is good to cover fences; cypress vine, with a large number of small star-shaped flowers in orange, red and white, and the familiar morning-glory and moonflower plants.