Mighty Fine Vines
When it comes to vibrant, versatile vines, the sky is the limit.
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If you're scrambling for quick-growing plant ideas in your garden, master gardener Paul James and vine expert Randy Weston have a solution that's simply divine. By incorporating vines into your landscape you can add a profusion of foliage, flowers and even fruit in a short amount of time.
When it comes to sheer growing power, vines either save the garden or take it over if you let them. One of the most rampant growing roses is Lady Banks, a yellow rose. In just five years it's grown from a small one-gallon pot to about 40 feet tall.
Vines can be rambunctious ramblers and no matter where you live, you can find a variety of vine to suit your growing conditions. The Chinese wisteria is a long-lived vine where it's hardy (USDA Zones (4)5 to 9). This particular plant is 70-plus years old, and it will grow as high as the tree or structure that it's growing on.
But don't discount the value of fast and furious annual vines. For the most part, annual vines give you the same kind of prolific flowering that non-vining annuals do.
Vines reach for the stars in one of two ways, by clinging or climbing. Clingers like this Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) develop suction cups that latch onto surfaces better than glue, and the same goes for the trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), which produces rootlets along the stems. Climbers twist, twine and claw their way to the top. Grapes, for instance, have tendrils that corkscrew tightly around their support, while climbing roses use their thorns to hitchhike a ride.
Without structure, vines veer from vertical. "All vines need something to climb on," says Weston. "Otherwise, they're horizontal." Vines without support grow along the ground, meander and possibly become groundcovers. Depending on how the plant climbs, structures can be as simple as this wooden grid nailed to the side of the house.
Vines generally prefer well-drained soil. Water well when planting. Weston trains his climbing rose to a trellis by loosely tying heavier branches with stretchy garden tape. "You don't want to tie them too tightly," he warns. As the plant grows, you may need additional ties to fill the structure in.
If you live in a climate that freezes, a container is the better way to grow more tender vines like this bougainvillea.
One warning though: sturdy support for this rampant grower is a must. Weston adds anchor screws around the trellis to give a little more rigidity to the structure. Below the soil, he attaches a few smaller boards to secure it in place so that it doesn't tend to rock and move.
Weston recommends using high-quality potting mix in a container that has at least one drainage hole. "Bougainvillea is a plant that doesn't want to have its roots disturbed," says Weston, "so we're not going to tease the roots or rough them up." Once planted, the bougainvillea's branches can use a bit of anchoring or weaving onto the trellis. Not much securing is necessary because it will latch on in no time. One cool fact about twining vines is that they're genetically programmed to twine either clockwise or counter-clockwise. So if you train it the wrong the direction, it'll politely unwind and twine the opposite direction.
According to James, the biggest challenge about growing vines is keeping them manageable. "When this trumpet vine is in bloom it's something to behold, says James. "But when it's dormant, you can see the length these climbers will go to." These problem vines started to grow along the top of the building and under the molding. Manage vines by limiting them to the face of the building and not letting it run along the top where it pulls the molding loose. For out of control vines, there's only one solution — pruning.
Some rampant growers like Lady Banks, trumpet vines and wisteria go wild if you don't work at trying to contain them. The time to prune is right after the spring blooms have faded. "There's not a whole lot that you can do to hurt an established vine, so a liberal pruning on these tough customers will help contain growth," says James. It lightens the load for the structure underneath and gives plants like the Lady Banks rose new bounce and vigor.