Climbers are rising to greater heights

Vines: These plants of many talents can conceal ugly sights and dramatically change the look of an area without much effort.

In The Garden

June 18, 2000|By Ann Egerton | Ann Egerton,Special to the Sun

Vines have assorted uses. They can conceal something unsightly like a tool shed or garage. They can create a wall of privacy between houses. They can change the structural appearance of a garden faster than any other type of plant. Vines can slither along the ground or over rocks, or they can soar up a tree, fence, arbor or trellis, adding height and interest as well as movement to the garden.

If you're not sure what you want, or if you can't quite imagine the effect of filling a vertical space with a plant, try an annual vine, such as morning glory (Ipomoea pur-purea) or moonflower (Ipomoea alba), whose large white flowers open at night. Annual vines grow 4 to 5 feet in one summer and give you a strong one-season effect. They also can be temporary ground covers or dress up tall, bare-stemmed flowers.

A newly popular annual climber is sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas), which comes in three colors: 'Blackie,' whose heart-shaped leaves are ebony on top and purple underneath; 'Margarita,' which has chartreuse leaves; and 'Tricolor,' which has a variegated pink, white and green leaf. While most annual vines need more than six hours of sunlight, the sweet potato vine does nicely on much less than that and does not grow tall.

Cardinal climber (Ipomoea quamoclit) looks like a miniature red morning glory. All of these vines, as you can tell from the genus name, Ipomoea, are related. Other annuals include Mandevilla, which is tropical and pink or white; black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata), which is black and orange like the flower; and hyacinth bean vine (Dolichos lablab), which has purple-veined leaves, purple plume-shaped flowers and bright purple pods. There is a white version, but it's not as exotic and impressive as the purple.

There is an enormous range of choices if you decide on a perennial vine. Chinese, Japanese and American wisterias produce long clusters of usually lavender or white flowers in late spring. The two Asian wisterias can become heavy to the degree of damaging the trellis or fence they're on and have larger flowers than the American species. The Asian ones need full sun, while the native vine tolerates some shade. All three twine up and around their support.

Some vines, such as English ivy (Hedera helix), navigate with tendrils, little grips in the back that grasp the support, while others, such as wisteria, wrap around the trellis or fencing. English ivy is a durable ground cover and will happily scale any shaded wall, but, like Asian wisterias, it can damage its support. I've seen it eat into the mortar between bricks and stone. Slightly gentler woody vines are Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata), whose green leaves turn scarlet or purple in the fall. They too can damage a wall.

Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) can climb 60 to 80 feet in its second year, after a slow start. It has fragrant white flowers in early summer, dark green heart-shaped leaves and exfoliating bark, so it's always interesting and looks wonderful against a wall in sun or partial shade.

Don't forget climbing roses in the sun. The cultivars 'New Dawn,' (light pink), 'William Baffin,' (dark pink), 'Autumn Sunset,' (peach) and 'Westerland' (tangerine) bloom all summer.

The sun-loving clematis has probably the widest range of colors, many blooming all summer long, and trumpet vine (Campis radicans) produces clusters of large, tubular, orange-colored flowers, to the delight of hummingbirds, summer to fall. It blooms most profusely in poor soil. Passionflower even grows well in containers, adding a showy elegance to patios and decks.


Carroll Gardens

444 E. Main St. Westminster, Md. 21157


Robert A. Schultz Co.

2311 Blue Mount Road Monkton, Md. 21111

410-343-0452 by appointment

White Flower Farm , P.O. Box 50 Litchfield, Conn. 06759-0050, 1-800-503-9624

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