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All About Vines  
Chosen with care and placed thoughtfully, vines are the workhorses and problem solvers of landscaping.


Although often banished to the southern suburban mailbox, vines are wonderfully versatile plants. Needing just a half-square foot of earth for their roots, they can fit into spaces too small to accommodate shrubs, yet they are also capable of covering large areas.

Are you bothered by an unsightly view? Vines can be used to cover up an unsightly view or fixture such as an old barn or a gutter downspout.

A vine may be just the leafy eradicator you need. 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.

How 'bout an old and ugly chain link fence - or any fence for that matter. Turn it into a beautiful 'living fence' with vines.


Landscape Uses of Vines

Even in a relatively small home landscape, a selection of climbers and ramblers can provide the following:

Seasonal color
- There are vines that bloom or offer some kind of interest during almost every part of the year.

The onset of spring is marked by the white, dogwood-shaped blossoms of Armandi Clematis or the masses of bright yellow trumpet flowers produced by Carolina Jasmine.

In mid to late spring, Wisteria takes over. We like 'Amethyst Fall's', a native variety of Wisteria, because it is les invasive and blooms twice a year: April and August.

Late spring brings on the masses of wonderfully fragant whitem star-shaped flowers of Confederate Jasmine, which continue to mid-summer.

Summer brings a myriad of choices for blooming vines, including hybrid clematis and tropical selections such as Mandevilla and Alamanda , which will often bloom long into the fall before a killing frost cuts them down.

One of our favorite flowering vines: Madame Galen Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans), will produce clusters of its large salmon-red, hummingbird magnet trumpet flowers from July through September!

Another excellent selection for attracting hummingbirds is the red Trumpet Honeysuckle which will bloom off and on for up to 10 months of the year.

Signature vines of the fall include Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis maximowicziana) which produces an abundance of many small, white sweetly fragrant flowers.

Fragrance - When planting any scented or fragrant vine, be sure to place them where their scent will be noticed. For example, plant the evergreen Confederate Jasmine vine (pictured to left) outside a doorway that is used often, an open window, or near a favorite sitting area.

Privacy - 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. Vines can make a cheap-and-easy screen between your house and the neighbor's by stretching a width of chicken wire between two pressure-treated posts and then weaving ivy through it. As the ivy grows, the chicken wire quickly disappears, leaving a green, live wall. You can also extend the height of a typical 4-6' privacy fence by adding trellising materials and an evergreen vine.

Shade - Where summers are hot, shade is a valuable commodity. Many types of vines, including trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) and Wisteria, grow with rampant abandon and can cover a pergola or arbor in a season or two, shading a patio or walkway more quickly than a tree could. Trumpet vine sports orange, red, or yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers (depending on the variety) that attract hummingbirds. Deciduous vines can actually help to save energy. Their shade blocks the hot sun, reducing air conditioning costs all summer, while in winter, bare stems let the sunlight through, warming the house and lowering heating bills.

Camouflage - Vines give you the option of softening hard elements in the home landscape. Let the delicate foliage of Akebia hide a chain link fence (it produces unusual purple flowers in spring as a bonus). Or, let a climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris) blur the rigid lines of a stucco or brick wall. Homeowners with a ramshackle shed or unsightly garage could easily put this technique to work.

One our our favorite clinging vines is Creeping Fig. Creeping Fig planted at the base of a stucco, stone, or brick wall that is 8' in height will cling and climb to the top in one year! The effect is amazing. Turn unsightly or just plain ugly walls from a liability to an asset using Creeping Fig or ivy. 'Wilson' Ivy is our favorite selection for this purpose because it will tolerate sun or shade.
Clematis - Widely grown for their colorful flowers, clematis are among the most popular of vines. Perhaps most familiar are the modern hybrids with their large, showy flowers and restrained growth habit - many will only attain heights of six to twelve feet, making them ideal for growing over shrubs and in other situations where a more rampant grower would smother its neighbors. Their blossoms encompass nearly the entire color spectrum and blooming times range from early spring to fall, depending on the variety. At the nursery we stock at least 25 varieties in a single season.

Growing Vines

Most vines grow well in moist but well-drained soil, but there are vines for almost every soil and light condition.

Vines will need pruning to limit growth, to thin the stems and branches and to remove dead or damaged wood. Vines that grow rapidly may need to be pruned at frequent intervals.


Pruning Clematis - Because there are so many different types of clematis, there is often confusion over when and how to prune. For pruning purposes, clematis fall into three main groups.

1. Group one blooms in the spring on the previous year's growth. It does fine without pruning, but when shaping is desired, it should be cut back immediately after it finishes blooming. 'Armandi' is the only one in this category we sell at the nursery and this is only when there hasn't been a crop failure. Some years we have it, some we don't.

2.Group two blooms in early summer, with flowers forming on short stems that grow from the previous season's leaf axil buds. In early spring it should be cut back to a pair of strong buds on all stems. These account for maost of the clematis we sell at the nursery.

3.Group three includes one's such as Swet Autumn clematis which blooms in the late summer or fall on the current season's growth. Because it produces flowers on new wood, it will bloom most profusely if cut back each year in early spring to between 12 and 18 inches from the ground.

Supporting Vines

Before deciding on a support for a particular vine, you must understand how the vine climbs. Clinging vines which include climbing Hydrangea, English ivy, and Creeping fig adhere to a surface with tiny aerial rootlets that grow from the stems and thus don't need support.

Grasping vines, like grapes, climb by grasping their support with tendrils. Clematis are also considered a grasping vine, as they use their petioles, or leaf stems, to grab onto their support. These types of vines can most easily grasp onto wires or thin lattice pieces that are spaced closely together. An ornamental trellis with wide open spaces should be backed with chicken wire or some similar material to help grasping vines get a toehold.

Twining vines climb by coiling themselves around their support and do well on chunkier supports such as lamp posts and porch pillars. They will also weave themselves in and out of open latticework as they head in an upward direction.

Use the following technique to transform a lamp post into a lush pyramid of flowering vines: Drive several stakes into the ground, forming a circle around the base of the post. String twine from the stake to the top of the post. Plant a vine next to each stake, and as the vines grows, coax them up the twine. You'll get a much fuller look this way than if you were growing them directly on the post. The same technique can be used for growing a vine up an unsightly gutter downspout.

In Summary

Vines are a wonderful vertical addition to any landscape. Their uses are many and most require verty little if any maintenance once established. They only take up a square foot of ground space in the landscape. Simple pruning and training is all that is usually necessary. Vines can be used for the following purposes:

To grow on:

  • Mailboxes
  • Fences
  • Arbors and other overhead structures
  • Trellises
  • Walls
  • Gutter Spouts
  • Embankments as erosion controllers

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