Flowering vines, evergreen vines and deciduous vines add an important and interesting dimension to the garden. Many times, I think, vines are overlooked. They are everywhere, yet taken for granted and under appreciated. Think back to mid-May. Columbia and the Midlands were swathed in the beautiful fragrance and appearance of Confederate Jasmine. In April, the Forest Acres area is decorated with towering vines of wisteria that create havoc with allergy sufferers but add so much beauty and fragrance to the early spring garden. With the proper placement and vigilant maintenance, vines are a beautiful and useful addition to our gardens.
Vines can be used to hide a multitude of sins in the garden: covering an old, ugly cyclone fence, disguising unsightly architecture, hiding the trash cans and recycling storage area or adding interest to a blank chimney or brick wall. They can even be used to cover the ground in an area where grass will not grow or add stability to a steep slope.
Vines add decorative accents to the garden and are a particularly important component in small gardens. They add shadows to a wall, vertical interest growing up a wall or structure, shade while growing on an arbor or pergola and contribute gorgeous daylight and moonlight blossoms to the landscape. Most vines are easy to grow and require very little horticultural maintenance. However, many vines are vigorous growers and will outgrow their allotted space without constant attention and grooming. As with any other kind of gardening, remember “right plant in the right place” and “definition of space.”
How Vines Work
Vines have several methods of attaching themselves to achieve their vertical growth. All vines need some sort of support or they will simply flop to the ground, which may be the required outcome if the vines are used as a ground cover. Vines grow by elongating their stems and tendrils. Some are slow growing but many are very aggressive. Choose wisely.
Trailing Vines – This type of vine must be attached to its support by the gardener. This group of vines includes rambling and climbing roses and Cape Honeysuckle. If not attached to a strong support, the vines will trail on other plants. Many times gardeners will choose to let a rambling rose cascade over a sturdy hedge. This can be beautiful and a very effective way to incorporate color in an otherwise evergreen hedge or boundary.
Twining Vines – This group of vines twine their tendrils around an object for support. Jasmine and Wisteria are in this group. Many of the old pine trees in the Midlands are covered in Wisteria vines, and it looks more like the Wisteria is supporting the pine tree than the pine tree is supporting the Wisteria.
Tendril Vines – Clematis vines are in this group. They send out tendrils that grow from the petioles, leaves and stems. These new tender tendrils coil around the closest vertical object for support.
Rooters – This is a tenacious group of vines, such as ivy. These plants send out “holdfasts” or root-like structures that cling to any surface. This can cause damage to stucco and wooden buildings, so choose accordingly.
Good Planting Habits
After you have chosen the right vine for the right place, dig a large hole, then add organic matter and sand if the drainage needs to be improved. If you are planting adjacent to a building or wall, the ground may be filled with concrete and debris from the foundation. Try to remove as much of this debris as you can and add good, light, well-draining garden soil. Plant the vine at the same level that it is growing in its nursery container. Tamp the soil to make sure there are no air pockets. Sprinkle a sparse amount of granular fertilizer around the drip line of the plant and water in. Water slowly so that the water is absorbed and does not just run off.
Give Your New Vine Some Support
Your new vine will need proper support once it starts growing. It is easier to provide the support before it needs it! Install a trellis or wire framework for heavy, non-clinging vines such as Confederate Jasmine. Use soft, stretchable garden tape to tie rambling and climbing roses to their support. Remember that climbers need support, and clingers need a solid surface to adhere to.
Pruning is Essential
Pruning the vine is the most important maintenance practice to achieve a beautiful, architecturally pleasing, living wall. Vines that flower on new growth should be pruned very early in the spring. All vines benefit aesthetically from a good grooming after they bloom. Vines used as ground cover such as Asiatic Jasmine or Ivy should be sheared in late February or early March and the bed lines should be redefined to ensure a well-groomed stand of healthy ground cover.
Moonvine or Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) – This vine is, and always will be, one of my favorite annual vines. It is very easy to grow in a sunny spot and blooms at night to produce large, spectacular white flowers that are pleasingly fragrant. It is a self-seeder, so seeds can be collected and planted the next spring. The seeds are poisonous, so make sure they are harvested so that no pets or children can ingest them. Moonvine is a vigorous grower, so give it strong support such as a square wooden trellis. It is particularly beautiful if enhanced with low voltage lighting to highlight the large white flowers at night. It absolutely glows in the nighttime garden.
Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea) – Morning Glory is related to Moonvine. They are both members of the Ipomoea family and look beautiful when planted together in the garden. Morning Glory blossoms open in the pre-dawn hours and close when the sunlight is at its strongest. I prefer “Heavenly Blue,” and it definitely lives up to its name! If planted with Moonvine, gardeners are treated to deep blue Morning Glory blossoms during the day and bright, white flowers of the Moonvine at night. Morning Glory is very easy to grow from seed. The seeds can be sown directly into the ground after the last threat of frost. Morning Glory thrives in the same conditions as Moonvine, so they really are an horticultural match made in heaven.
Black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata) – This is another annual vine that very easy to grow. It is true to its name (Black-eyed Susan) with abundant golden flowers accented with a brown center. This maintenance-free vine blooms all summer and loves the summer heat in the Midlands. I like to use it in cocoa-mat lined, hanging baskets and let the vines grow up the chains. It adds a vibrant pop of color and hides the utilitarian chains. It is also effective in a perennial bed. The vine is lightweight enough so that if it rambles over perennial flowers, it will not weigh the plant down. The bright yellow blossoms add a vibrant splash of color all summer long.
There are certainly more perennial vines than annual vines that thrive in Columbia. There is not enough space in this article to study all of the fabulous perennial vines that are available, so I will focus on the easiest and most successful choices.
Five Leaf Akebia (Akebia quinata) – This is a slender, woody vine with soft, delicate foliage. The small, fragrant flowers are abundant in the spring. This vine is usually chosen for its lovely, medium-green foliage. Just as the name suggests, the leaves grow in a cluster of five. It thrives in the sun with its feet in well-drained soil and can grow to 30 feet. It is not an extremely heavy vine, so it can be supported on a wall with galvanized nails and strong wire. I have even seen it growing in a more rustic setting where it was climbing up a heavy twine support. It looks particularly good against a rough, stucco wall.
Cherokee Rose (Rosa laevigata) – This is one of my top picks in rose vines. It is old-fashioned and can be difficult to find in commercial nurseries. It is very easy to root and sets new roots quickly. I have successfully rooted this wonderful rose many times. Cherokee Rose blooms in early to mid-spring and looks beautiful when planted next to “The Mermaid” rose. It has strong canes with sharp thorns, and it must be given strong support. I have seen it growing up pine trees with wire support to hold it against the trunk, and it is very happy rambling in and out of a cyclone fence, which is great way to disguise one. I think it is useful to deter animals (and people) from climbing a fence or wall. It blooms prolifically and grows by leaps and bounds, so give it all the room it needs.
Amethyst Falls Wisteria: American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) – When consulting with gardening clients, I often mention Wisteria … and they look at me like I have lost my mind! Amethyst Falls Wisteria is definitely a different animal from the Wisteria that grows like kudzu, completely enveloping pine trees and even abandoned houses. Amethyst Falls is a spectacular twining vine that grows about two-thirds more slowly than the wild Wisteria that is so prevalent in the Midlands. At maturity, this deciduous vine can grow to 10 to 15 feet.
Amethyst Falls is a hybrid Wisteria that is much better suited to our smaller suburban gardens and is much easier to maintain. It is a perfect choice for a large container planting outfitted with a metal obelisk to climb or planted in the ground in front of a wooden trellis for support to create a focal point in the garden or to provide a privacy screen. It blooms later that the Asian Wisteria, and its pendulus, purple blossoms are slightly fragrant and longer lasting as well.
Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala) – I have been on a Climbing Hydrangea binge this season and have suggested them to all of my clients. Climbing hydrangea can be finicky in our area but it is worth the challenge. These deciduous “clingers” prefer moist soil and partial shade. It is difficult to get them to bloom. The clinging stems are beautiful in the dormant months and the pendulous leaves add softness and movement in the spring and summer. I plant them as much for their leaves and bark than I do for the blooms — any bloom is an added bonus. They are particularly pleasing if grown on an old stucco or brick wall. They prefer morning sun and are not happy if blasted by the hot, afternoon heat. I think they definitely deserve a space in the garden!
There are many, many more vines that I would like to include — the list is long and the variety is great. Stroll through your garden to see if you have a spot for a new vine this season. Visit our wonderful, local nurseries and study their inventory. I am sure that there is a perfect vine waiting there just for you!
Chores for July and August in the Midlands
Despite the unrelenting heat, there are still chores for the gardener in July and August!
• A second seeding of zinnias is a good idea this time of year. If sown directly into the ground now, you will have a fresh crop of bright zinnias until frost. If you notice the leaves are being enjoyed at night, sprinkle with Sevin dust.
• Plant a second crop of seasonal vegetables. Our spring season is so early that many vegetables have wilted and given up by this time of year. Sow vegetable seeds directly into the ground or search garden centers or feed and seed stores for fresh plants.
• Divide daylilies. Daylilies bloom much better if they are not too deep in the ground and not crowded. Do it early in the morning so the transplants will not wilt in the hot afternoon sun.
• Groom the perennial and annual garden. Cut back any plants that are top heavy and flopping to the ground. There’s plenty of time for them to rebound before frost.
• Cut back herbs such as mint, oregano and basil to keep a fresh crop of fresh leaves.
Fertilize annuals and perennials with liquid fertilizer. Do this early in the morning so that the leaves do not burn in the sun.
• Watch for insects on shrubbery and vegetables and treat accordingly. Make sure to pay attention to temperature requirements for any sprays. Many specify not to be used during high temperatures.
• Make sure your irrigation system is doing its job and there are no broken heads or drip lines.
• If going on vacation, find someone to check on your garden while you are gone.
• Make notes of what is thriving and what is failing in the summer garden. Add more of the successes next year and edit the failures.
• Enjoy this hot time in the garden!
What’s Blooming in July and August
Make an early morning trip to the Riverbanks Botanical Garden to see what is blooming there.
These are plants that if taken care of should be blooming in July and August:
Butterfly bush, Crape myrtle, Lantana, Oleander, Salvia, Butterfly Weed (the butterflies will be happy), Cleome, Cosmos, Daylily, Impatiens, Petunia (if cut back) Plumbago, Pineapple sage, Portulaca, Rudbeckia, Vinca, Sunflower, Yarrow and Zinnia with intermittent roses blooming sporadically.