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Vines - Nature's Wall Hangings

by Gene McAvoy

Jackman Clematis
Clematis x jackmanii

Vines are a great way to cover the rough edges in a landscape. Flowering vines can add an extravagant air to outdoor areas. Envision the exotic beauty of a flowering vine cascading over a wall or clinging to fence. Picture yourself sitting in the shade of a beautiful scarlet flowering bougainvillea arbor and sipping a cool drink, or perhaps strolling past a bank of fragrant jasmine inhaling it's heady bouquet. Judiciously planted, vines can add privacy, disguise harsh landscape elements, provide shade, and add spectacular beauty to your yard.

Vines are best used as wall hangings to send climbing up and over vertical surfaces. In addition to adding beauty, they lend texture, seasonal interest and privacy to the landscape.

Vines can either be annual or perennial. Most annual vines grow fast enough to cover a barren fence or trellis in only a few weeks. The options for using annual vines are endless. They can be planted in the ground in front of a trellis or fence or around a tree wrapped with a flexible wire trellis. They may be planted in a planter box with a redwood fan and used on a deck or in a lanai. Green vinyl covered fencing is a good option for constructing a trellis. It is heavy and lasts longer than chicken wire due to the vinyl coating. This material is relatively inexpensive and the green color allows it to disappear once covered by foliage.

Morning glories are popular annual vines that are suited for planting in the spring and summer. Morning glories produce glorious displays of trumpet shaped flowers and come in shades of blue, pink, scarlet and magenta. A close relative of the morning glory is the moonflower. It has a white flower that resembles morning glories, but unlike morning glory blossoms which peak in the morning, it's blossoms open in the evening and remain open at night. The flowers are quite fragrant and provide a sensual treat if planted near a bedroom window or outdoor sitting area.

Both of these popular vines will grow in almost any soil, in full sun or partial shade and are easily started directly in the garden. The seeds have a hard seed coat, so be sure to soak the seed over night or nick the seed coat before planting to ensure rapid germination.

Perennial vines, of course, have the advantage of being long lasting and will endure once established, eliminating the need for annual replacement. There are two kinds of perennial vines: woody, which must be tied or woven through their supports and twining which cling by themselves.

Popular woody vines for this area include: allamanda with bright yellow flowers, bougainvillea in dazzling variety of different colors, mandevillea with bright pink trumpet shaped flowers and Petrea or Queen's wreath with delicate blue-violet flowers that resemble wisteria.

Favorite twining vines include: Cape honeysuckle which produces a brilliant profusion of orange-red flowers, Carolina jasmine with scented yellow blossoms, Confederate jasmine which can grow to 20 feet or more and has showy, fragrant, white flowers, passion flower with exotic looking purple or red blooms, (if you want to attract butterflies, this is a good choice) and Thunbergia. Thunbergia comes in several different varieties. Clock vine (Thunbergia grandiflora) is a prolific rambling vine with heart shaped leaves and cascades of blue flowers. The variety (T. alba) has small white flowers, while the black-eyed Susan vine (T. alata) has yellow flowers with dark brown centers like it's name sake.

Most vines require full sun to develop strong stems and flower freely. Young plants will require a trellis or similar support to climb. All vines grow upward and tend to lose the foliage at their bases. Don't worry, as the vine continues to grow, it will cascade downward and cover the bare base. Most vines don't require much care but unruly growth must be directed. Train vines and do not be afraid to prune the stems. Pruning will produce new branches that will help keep the plants full and compact.

When planting vines prepare a hole twice as wide as the root ball but no deeper. Improve the soil by adding compost, well rotted manure, or other organic matter in an amount equal to about one third the volume of the excavated soil. After positioning the plant in the hole, fill the hole with the amended soil mixture and water thoroughly to ensure good root to soil contact. To facilitate watering, construct a saucer like basin around the edge of the root ball. Finish by placing 2-3 inches of mulch around the base of the vine to help maintain good soil moisture for growth.

Regular feeding will encourage rapid growth. For new plantings, feed monthly with 6-6-6 at rate of one half pound per 100 square feet. Once the vines are well established feed three times per year in the spring, summer and early fall with one to two pounds of 6-6-6 per 100 square feet.

Monitor plantings for insect and disease problems and contact the extension office for specific control recommendations.


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