Climbing vines add interest to a garden

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Climbing vines add interest to a garden while taking up very little space. They are a quick solution to a boring wood fence or blank wall. Plant a vine at the base of a trellis and its stems will twine through the spokes with little coaxing.

The vine we see on old university campuses and other century old buildings is likely Boston ivy. It produces tendrils or small wires that help attach itself to brick and wood siding. Boston Ivy is quick growing, producing an abundance of lush leaves about the size of maple leaves. There are no noticeable flowers on Boston ivy, but leaves turn bright red in autumn.

Virginia creeper, a close relative of Boston ivy, is a vigorous grower with a more informal growth habit. Its tendrils are not as strong as Boston ivy so may need a trellis or other support in order to remain upright. Leaves are so similar to Boston ivy that it is often difficult to decipher between the two.


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Trumpet vine is a vigorous growing vine originating from eastern United States. Foliage is lush, dense and dark green, giving it the feel of a tropical jungle. Clusters of scarlet coloured trumpet shaped flowers appear in July. The showy flowers, also in yellow, are famous for attracting hummingbirds.

Trumpet vine is not for the faint of heart. When mature, its base can be as large as a small tree and the branches can spread 40 or more feet. If you have a Trumpet vine in your yard and you want to dig it out, you will need to dig forever, but eventually the vine will likely return. Trumpet vine also tends to sprout new seedlings in the lawn near the parent plant.

Climbing hydrangea is a dense growing vine with dark green lush foliage. Fragrant white flowers appear in early summer and remain showy through most of July and into August. Climbing hydrangea may need a few years to establish itself, but once it begins growing will be quite vigorous and fast growing. Its woody stems have good winter interest. Climbing hydrangea is one of the few vines that will grow in shade.

Climbing roses are sun loving and will produce a shower of colour in spring and again in fall, with dribbles of flower appearing through summer. Like regular roses, climbing roses are heavy feeders and prefer to grow in rich, heavy soil. Unlike regular roses, climbing roses don’t need to be pruned and are more disease and pest resistant. Since climbing roses have no method to attach themselves to anything, they will need to be ties to a trellis or arbour.

For a fine textured plant, try porcelain vine. This small leaved vine with both variegated and green foliage has beautiful berries in clusters of seafoam green, teal and raspberry. Porcelain vine has good behaviour and will not grow out of bounds.

Next week’s Garden Clippings will deal with clematis, the queen of climbers.

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