Living in the suburbs on small lots means that open ground space for gardening is precious. A gardener must take advantage of every growing area, even on vertical planes. Many yards are surrounded by fences or walls which make perfect canvases for green foliage and flowers. The view to the fence line is even more important given that it is the terminus of our sightline when we are viewing the garden either from within the house or standing in it. This article will discuss various types of vines, how these vines grow best, and provide some design tips for vertical gardening.
Vine Growing Habits: Vines are usually sold with their branches trained on a structure such as a lattice or stake. Depending on the type of vine, the branches are attached to the structure in different ways: either the plant physically attaches to the structure (by twining or suckers) or the plant is manually attached by flexible tape.
Twining Vines: These vines have small tendrils that will grow and reach to find something to attach to and then twirl around that object. Examples of these vines are: Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), and Passion Flower (Passiflora pfordtii), seen above. When planting these vines, be sure that the plant has something to grow on and attach to. Some homeowners are concerned that a vine would cause damage to a wall or fence. One way to avoid this problem is to plant a twining vine on a lattice, but to not lean the lattice on the wall or fence. Instead, the lattice attaches to the wall with eye-hooks so that the lattice is a few inches away from the wall with the plant planted in the ground directly underneath. The tendrils will not attach to a flat fence or wall. The eye-hooks can be unhooked and the lattice with the plant can be tipped away from the wall while remaining in the ground. With the lattice tipped at an angle (with something to temporarily brace it), the wall can be accessed for painting or other maintenance.
Vines with Suckers: Some vines have small suckers that attach to surfaces and allow the vine to climb up walls and fences. Examples of these are Ivy (Hedera species) and Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila). These two vines are vigorous and perfect for a quick cover on a wall or fence. Homeowners should be cautious, however, because if the vine becomes too aggressive and the vine is removed, a stain and residue may be left where the sucker was attached. The stain can be scraped off and the wall may need to be repainted. If a permanent wall covering is your goal, then this kind of vine may be a good solution.
Vines that need manual attachment: Finally, there are some vines that need human intervention to climb up a vertical surface. These vines need a lot of attention, and some homeowners think that their beauty is worth it. An example of this vine is climbing rose (Rosa species). They may need a tie to brace them now and then, but this should not be a chronic problem. The branches can be gently bent to weave around any structure that you choose.
Vines can also grow down vertical walls. One can plant a vine at the top of a wall as well as the bottom of a wall and let them grow in both directions for an interesting effect. Another design idea is to plant vines with different bloom times (i.e. early spring and mid-summer) in the same planting area so that an area has flowers spanning multiple seasons.
Whether it’s a twining vine or one with suckers, vines will give you a vertical accent in your garden. Vines can be useful when you have a very small area of actual ground, but you need coverage at eye level. They need attention to help guide their growth, but their beauty will be worth the effort.