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Glorious vines to delight the gardener

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Jennifer Moore
You need this in your perennial border.

All gardens look wonderful with various perennials and low growing shrubs, but consideration must also be given for plants that provide height. When plants are grown at all the same height it looks like something is missing, yet when a vine, flowering or not, is placed into the garden, that feeling disappears.

Vines can be grown along a fence placed at the back of the border, up the house wall or on a obelisk placed anywhere throughout the garden.

One advantage of an obelisk, is any perennial or annual vine can be grown up it. Another advantage is the obelisk can be put into a large pot, then moved to any location you wish. The disadvantages are they are not always tall enough for the mature vine and if a perennial vine is planted in a pot, then housing for the winter is required and watering daily is essential.

Many people plant perennial vines adjacent to their house foundation, yet various requirements should be looked at before planting. It is best to plant a vine at least 12 inches away from a house foundation. This allows the necessary air movement at the base or "crown" of the vine, allows rainfall to reach the vine, and keeps the roots away from the foundation wall when the sun heats it.

All vines need support of some description for their long twining stems. Some varieties have tendrils that cling themselves to a supporting structure. Others have a twining habit that wind themselves around posts, wire or twine provided for them, and others still need to be tied onto their structure.

Well-drained soil with amendments are the usual requirements. Before purchasing your vine, note the sun requirements needed before planting it into your garden; full sun or part sun, shaded roots but sun for the leaves, and so on.

Also consider mulching your vine and which mulch will better suit your plant as well as your garden. This allows the roots to stay cool and keep the plant happy while it is trying to establish itself in its location. Mulch also keeps weeds down and reduces the amount of watering needed to be done.

Watering should be done deeply when it is required, thus encouraging the roots to go deeply into the soil.

Fertilizers should be kept to either well-rotted compost or bone- or blood-meal in the beginning. A transplant fertilizer is also available and won't harm the vine while it is starting to grow. Regular fertilizers can be given the following year or when the vine has established itself. A well-balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer seems to be the one of choice in various nurseries for their stock, applied bi-monthly if water-soluble or in the spring and summer if a granular, slow-release form.

Lastly, don't forget to look at its mature height, as you wouldn't want to purchase a vine that will overwhelm your location or need constant pruning.

Some vines available are:

Clematis - These vines are best planted with their leaves in full sun and roots shaded by either mat-growing shrubs, large stones or perennials. It is best planted with the root ball on a slight inward angle towards your object being covered, at the same height as was potted. Many different heights, flower colours, styles and bloom times are available to choose from. They can cover a large area quickly if the proper variety is chosen and are best suited for fences or arbour posts. Cold hardy in Zone 2 to warmer climates, be sure to check the tag when purchasing. Pruning requirements differ as well, for each variety; be sure to check when the proper pruning is required with either the nursery or if stated on the tag. These vines do their best if planted in a fertile soil that is moisture retentive, although I have seen many growing in average soil and they do quite well.

Honeysuckle - Red, pink or cream coloured flowers appear in clusters all over this vine, with red fruit in the fall. It can be a fast-growing plant even in poor soil. This is also a favourite flower for hummingbirds for its sweet nectar and fragrant flowers. Grows approximately 15 - 25 feet tall in full sun or part shade. There are a few varieties, "Dropmore Scarlet" is hardy in zone 2 and "Goldflame" is a zone 4 hardy vine. Both are suitable for covering house walls and steep slopes. No pruning is required, other than in the spring for any winter damage.

Silverlace Vine - This very vigorous, yet elegant climber is a must if you need a space covered quickly. I have seen this plant grow one foot every month in a friend's garden! Large, frothy white flowers create a delicate spray for a September show. Grows in full sun to full shade and 25 - 30 feet high in any type of soil, yet the more rich the soil, the better show of flowers that are produced. It is a zone 5 hardy vine, but if planted in a protected location, it does pull through zone 4 easily. No pruning is required, only if a more compact shape is needed or to clean up any winter damage. This vine is best suited for large arbours, climbing slopes or house walls.

Climbing Hydrangea - This is a true, self-attaching vine with glossy, green leaves and wide, flat white flower heads that bloom at the end of July. It grows well in zone 4, in both full sun or full shade, to a height of 15 - 20 feet. It appreciates a moisture-retentive soil, but it isn't a necessity and any soil type will guarantee many blooms. Removing winter damage is the only pruning requirement for this vine. Great for covering house walls or wood fences, but not as effective when covering arbours or steep slopes.

Boston Ivy - This self-clinging, zone 4 vine attaches itself well to any brick or stone surface. The wonderful olive-green leaves turn a fantastic scarlet-orange in the fall, usually after the first frost. It grows well in full sun or full shade to 30 - 45 feet tall. It is not a fast growing vine but is still worth any garden spot for its foliage or additional black berries produced in the fall. Growing in any soil, it is most suited for covering house walls and this is where it is commonly seen. No pruning is required with this vine.

Engelman Ivy - Almost weedlike at times, this great, self-clinging ivy vine puts on a spectacular show of red in the fall when its leaves turn colour. The leaves are long stemmed and are divided into 3-5 leaflets. This zone 2, very hardy vine does well in full sun or full shade, moist or dry soil and grows to 25 - 30 feet tall. It can be used to quickly cover house walls, very steep slopes or large fences. No pruning is required.

All climbing vines can be incorporated into a garden; they don't take up a lot of space and give many years of enjoyment. You only need to look at a few things before purchasing the right vine for you!

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