The Sky's the Limit
Things are looking up with this "vine" way to elevate your landscape.
By Jeff Nowak, Executive Editor
Vine-ally, a simple solution to expanding your gardens without having to break large areas of ground—or even a sweat. All you have to do is think up rather than out and let climbing vines do the rest.
Vines pack a visual punch that will hit you square between the eyes. These plants give your garden new dimension, add vibrant color to your landscape and are a practical problem solver for many unsightly situations.
Looking to hide the trash cans on the side of your house? Let a vine climb a trellis strategically placed in front of them. Want to blend your chain-link fence into the landscape? A nice flowering vine will give it a natural look without sacrificing function. Have a stump that's too expensive to remove and too big to take out yourself? Plant a vine—it's nature's camouflage. Running out of planting space? Go vertical!
There are plenty of other reasons to select vines for your landscape. Early-blooming sweet peas chase away the chill of winter...Virginia creeper adds beautiful fall color...trumpet vine invites hummingbirds...and grapes are a favorite nesting and feeding site for northern cardinals.
But before charging off to the nearest nursery or garden center to pick out the first vine that comes to mind, it's best to plan before you purchase.
There are so many vines to choose from, it would be impossible to list them all. However, all vines fall into one of three groups—annuals, perennials or woody vines.
Annuals, such as cypress vine, grow from seed each year. Perennials, like passionflower, die to the ground in winter, but sprout again in spring from the same roots. Woody vines, like wisteria, stand all year.
"One clever gardening trick is to mix annual vines with woody vines," says plant expert and contributing editor Melinda Myers. "Initially, woody vines don't grow very fast. So the annual vines can provide more immediate cover and color.
"It's fun to mix different vines together, such as clematis planted near a climbing rose," she adds. "Together they really brighten up a yard."
Most landscape vines grow upward, so it's important to understand how they climb and what types of support structures best suit their needs.
Some vines, such as honeysuckle, twine their way up, wrapping around and around as they grow. Others, like passionflower, send out tendrils to grab on. Some, such as climbing hydrangea, have aerial roots, while Virginia creeper and others use hold fasts that serve as natural suction cups.
A lightweight trellis is perfect for the twisting vines of clematis, but no match for a vigorous climbing rose (right), which is more suited to a heavier arbor.
If you're a fan of the dangling purple clusters of a blooming wisteria, make sure you have a Herculean structure to support its incredible weight. We're talking major timbers that are located well away from your house, so the vigorous vine doesn't wreak havoc on rain gutters and downspouts.
Any of the clinging vines, like Boston ivy, are perfect plants to green-up brick walls. But be careful if you have a wooden house. Your siding could rot from the trapped moisture, and many of the hold fasts are so strong they can damage the wood.
Use Your Imagination
Elaborate structures are not necessary for planting vines in your backyard. Annuals, like morning glories, are the perfect answer for flimsy fences and lightweight arbors. In fact, they'll even grow on netting or strings.
"My husband, Jim, stretches strong cord diagonally from the ground to the top of our wraparound porch," says Angela Griffin Hatchett of Altoona, Alabama. "Then he crisscrosses it going the other way, giving the morning glories plenty of support as they reach toward the sun."
Vines also are great plants to enjoy with kids because many grow extremely fast. Make a simple tepee from bamboo poles and let scarlet runner beans cover it for a neat summer hideout.
And if you're not a builder, a simple 4 x 4 post in the middle of a perennial garden is enough to provide a vertical break to your landscape. Just anchor it and stagger a few nails every 6 to 8 inches, so the vine has something to hang onto.