Looking for a new twist to your garden? How about adding a vine or two to add a new dimension. You can choose an annual vine, a perennial vine or an evergreen vine or climber. A climber will soften or hide a chain-link fence, covers a wall or climbs a tree. It can provide shade when over a pergola or privacy to a screen porch. Vines add a wonderful vertical element to any garden.
Growing vertically will give you more growing space since they take up very little ground area, something that is precious in many yards. They can give you a spectacular show that will delight any visitor to your garden with the clever ways to get these plants to grow.
I have seen vines all my life. As a child, I remember seeing them on chain-link fences, on arbors or over the front porches. However, it was not until I visited a garden called Ninfa that I really became fascinated with vines. They were very clever with the way they were used. They took small- to medium-sized trees and planted climbing roses, clematis and other vines beside the tree. The tree would become the host to the vine and bloom at a time different from the time that the tree generally bloomed. The vine would bring color to the tree when the tree has passed its blooming cycle. It made Ninfa burst with the color seeing all these vines flowering over ruins, bridges and in trees.
There are an abundance of uses for vines. You can have a climber scurry up any vertical object you want, as long as you provide some support if you choose a climber that does not have “tendrils” for it to use to self attach. You can also have a vine scamper over top of shrubs in a perennial border.
Some climbers, like passion flowers, use tendrils to wrap themselves around a nearby support, some are self-clingers like a climbing hydrangea that adhere unaided to walls and there are ramblers like roses, that need some support to continue climbing.
When choosing your vine, you will have to make a few choices. You will need to decide the location where it will be, a sunny or a shady area. Then think if you want a perennial evergreen vine or a deciduous vine that could be an annual or perennial.
You might want more than one vine. These are things you need to know before you go shopping for the right vine for your location. (Or you could be like me and find a fabulous vine and then find a location — not the right way to go.)
Annual vines
Black-eyed Susans are annual climbers that grow 6 feet or more and produce yellow, orange, white or apricot blooms through the summer. They are quite easy to grow and are cheery looking, resembling their perennial namesake.
Nasturtium offers jewel-toned flowers in shades of red, orange, yellow and apricot. I have never eaten one but the blooms are edible and often used to decorate plates of food. They like poor soil and if you treat them too well, they will give you leaves and not flowers. Painter Claude Monet made them famous in his spectacular garden.
Morning glories are quite fast growing vines and the flowers on these can be quite showy in a sunny spot. The vines can climb to 15 feet and will brighten any morning with its cheerful flowers.
Moonflowers are an interesting choice with their fragrant white flowers that open at night. These are annuals for us but can be a perennial in warm areas.
Passion flowers, a native that has a tropical look, have flowers that are vividly colorful and beautiful. Growing up in eastern North Carolina, I loved these flowers and had fun bursting the seed-pods that were the size of a small lemon. There are many different hybrids today but the blue one that I knew as a child is my favorite.
One of the most popular and showy plants is the Mandevilla or rocktrumpet. It is a robust tropical vine which has bold flowers that are usually pink but there is a red and a white variety, too. These plants, as well as star jasmine, can survive winter in pots inside but they are not meant for areas with extreme cold. Star jasmine can take more cold but does best in a more protected spot in zone 7 or colder.
Perennial vines
When it comes to climbers, clematis is considered the queen of vines. There are a plethora of ones available. They come in a wide choice of colors and shapes. Some have a large flower and some have bell shaped flowers. They come in red, blue, white, pink and a variety of other colors. Some bloom in the spring and some bloom in the fall. Some are about 4 feet in length and others grow to 25 feet.
Carolina jasmine, the state flower of South Carolina, is a lovely vine that blooms in the spring with delicate golden yellow flowers. The glossy green foliage stays on the vine all year. It can be aggressive but with a little pruning, you can keep it looking nice and neat on your lamppost, mailbox or where ever you choose.
Trumpet vine is another native that is fast growing and easy to grow. When the summertime comes along, a burst of orange, red or yellow flowers brighten up any spot. It is a great vine for attracting hummingbirds.
Honeysuckle is a charming semi-evergreen native with coral trumpet flowers that hummingbirds adore. It is not the one that is invasive but a cultivar that is lovely and delicate. There are several hybrids that have been developed.
Clematis armandii is an evergreen vine for warmer areas of the country. The elongated leaves are attractive all year and in the spring, white flowers appear that are quite fragrant.
Smilax is quite well known in the southern U.S. It has handsome evergreen leaves that look beautiful in any flower arrangement as well as adorning a mantle at Christmas. It is known for its use in decorating more than being grown for flowers.
The use of vines is endless and there are many exquisite vines I have not mentioned. Your garden centers have lots of vines waiting for you to buy and they will tell you the specifics of planting them. I hope you will find them fun to grow as I have.
— Betty Montgomery, a master gardener and author of a Four Season Southern Garden, can be reached at bmontgomery40@gmail.com.