By Margie Densford
When you think of vines, does the image of out-of-control tendrils growing so quickly you can actually see them spreading across the ground and over your house come to mind? Well, many mannerly vines are available to provide us with fragrant flowers, vertical interest, and even shade.
I was amazed when I began to list all the vines we grow. Most of them are low maintenance and easy to care for. When I thought about it, I realized I usually add at least one new vine to my collection every year.
One of the newest I purchased this spring in Knoxville is a Tennessee native, Clematis versicolor ‘Leather Flower.’ What caught my eye was the photo of this Clematis in bloom. Exquisite, purple, bell-shaped blossoms dangled from their dainty stems with a smidge of chartreuse lining the bottom edge. I bought a small seedling and was told it would bloom this year.
I have mature, lavender clematis that began blooming the first part of May, another that’s dark purple and blooms in June, one that blooms in the spring and fall, and a white, star-shaped Clematis paniculata ‘Sweet Autumn’ that explodes in the fall. You’ll be able to match clematis to your specific desired bloom time, color, and size by just doing a little research.
Besides clematis, potato vine is the go to plant for a spiller with dramatic color and three-seasons of interest. Bought as an annual this fast growing beauty comes in chartreuse, burgundy, and even a variegated version with shades of cream, green and pink. At the end of the season you can either take cuttings and easily root them in water or throw them in the compost bin.
One vine that can fill all the characteristics of a spiller, thriller, and filler is ivy. I must be addicted, because I counted almost a dozen different varieties growing in my front and back yards. They range in leaf size from a 1/2 inch to 3 or 4 inches across. I have three variegated specimens and two that are very curly. The hurricane fence hiding our secret garden is covered with dark green, old-fashioned ivy as well as the posts of the pergola, with a little yellow and green variegated intertwined for spice. Several containers and even a birdcage planter are home to some of my collection. All the ivy is perennial, and will partially or entirely fills a container with little or no maintenance. I would have to say that the thriller in my garden would be the white and green ivy that covers the floor of a shady spot filled with mostly hydrangeas, hostas, and ferns. The ivy is definitely the showstopper in this bed!
I grow the early, yellow blooming Carolina Jasmine, the wonderfully scented, white Confederate Jasmine, and a new chartreuse leafed Jasmine officinale ‘Fiona Sunrise.’ All of these vines bring their own unique charm to the spring and summer gardens.
Some vines don’t play well with others and need there own designated space. The lace vine, Porcelain vine, and Wisteria come quickly to mind. First you have to decide if your love for these plants is great enough to find and make a sometimes extremely sturdy place for these stunners. Then let them do their thing in an unencumbered area.
The secret to most flowering vines is the base of the plant can be in the shade as long as the foliage gets plenty of sun. Jasmine, climbing Hydrangea and Clematis work well in these conditions.
I wouldn’t be a good garden friend if I didn’t mention the danger of letting the native Parthenocissus quinquefolia ‘Virginia Creeper’, aka Five-leaved or Five-fingered ivy grow wild in your yard or up a tree. Once this ivy grows up the trunk and covers the foliage of even part of a large tree say 40 feet up, the plant no longer has the capacity to properly photosynthesize and the entire limb will die, compromising the entire tree. The vine is easy to pull off the tree when it’s young, but left to its own devices will grow a root that will literally take an ax to sever. I speak from experience when I say this. If you value your trees, keep this invasive ivy out of your yard. A good vine and brush herbicide should do the trick.
A couple of vines I would warn you against planting that can be invasive and require ‘mucho’ maintenance are wisteria and trumpet vine. Yes, I have both of these, and I happen to think at the moment that the wisteria is worth it. Tommy has build a sturdy pergola with six by six posts to hold the massive trunks of this strong vine. Any smaller structure would crumble under its strength. The trumpet vine, however, is in the process of being eradicated. It would be perfect because I love the bright, orange blooms and so do the hummingbirds, but it sprouts up several feet from the mother plant in all directions.
It’s a good idea to do your homework ‘before’ bringing home a new vine for your garden. It may look tame in the garden center, but a few years down the road without diligent maintenance it may not only grow up on your house but knock on the front door and want to come inside!
June garden tips:
1. Move houseplants outdoors in the shade.
2. Finish planting and transplanting early in the month.
3. Prune spring flowering shrubs like azaleas.
4. Begin deadheading for continuous bloom.
5. Keep weeds at bay before they take over.
June Garden opportunities:
• June 8- June 29 (Saturdays 9 a.m.-11 a.m.) Free Garden Tours at DGG.
• June 10-(Mon. 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) ‘All About Bluebirds’ lecture by David Pitts at Creech at Memphis Botanic Gardens.
• June 22 (Sat. 10 p.m.-2 p.m.) Garden Family Day at DGG-Free admission.
• June 26 (Wed. 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.) Munch and Learn about ‘Drought Tolerant Plants’ from Dale Skaggs.
Margie Densford is a Master Gardener, a member of the Millington City Beautiful Commission, and a member of The Garden Club of Rosemark, a member of the National and Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs.
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