By Melanie Mathieson
The Gardening Guru
Have you ever thought about adding a vine to your landscape or garden?
Vines—whether annual or perennial—may be just what you need to add a focal point with some height, cover an unsightly object, grow fruit, or just add a special plant to your landscape.
The first step is to ask yourself what you want from a vine. Do you have a good spot or can you create one?
Some vines are big, rambling plants while others can fill and remain in their allotted spaces. Some offer temporary coverage and others are longer lasting.
Figure out whether you want flowers or fruit, and whether you want the vine just one growing season or to come back year after year.
Next you need to determine if you want an annual or perennial vine.
Annual vines have to be re-planted every year, but can offer a smaller and fast-growing solution to adding a focal point in the garden. They are capable of growing from seed to a mature plant that can flower or produce fruit over the course of one growing season.
Annual vines work well planted in pots or directly in the ground, and can be started right from seeds that only cost a few dollars.
Some of the annual vines species that grow in our zone can produce flowers or vegetables. Favourite annual flowering vines for our area include moonflower, morning glory, climbing nasturtium, and annual sweet pea.
Squash, cucumbers, pole beans, and peas are vegetable-producing vines that can be used as interesting focal points in the garden or hide unsightly areas of the yard or garden.
Although perennial in the southern Unites States, other vines to consider to be used like annual vines in our area are black-eyed Susan vine, cup-and-saucer vine, bougainvillea, jasmine, mandevilla, and passionflower.
Because these species do not grow as perennials in our zone, they may be hard to find in the local nursery and available only via mail order.
Some of the regional nurseries do carry some of the species in their annuals section, but they can be a bit on the pricey side compared to more common annuals.
For a longer-term, dependable investment in your garden, perennial vines are a practical choice.
Much like the perennials in your flower beds, perennial vines typically spend their first season getting established. An old gardener’s saying describes the growth pattern of most perennial vines well: “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap!”
In ensuing seasons, these vines continue to grow and are a reliable aesthetic enhancement to your garden year after year.
With some vine species, their growth may get woody or scraggly over time, so some pruning may be necessary.
Some favourite perennial vines for our zone include clematis, climbing roses (check the zone before buying, though), honeysuckle, hardy kiwi, grapes, hops, Virginia creeper, and trumpet vine.
If you are planting annual vines, ordinary digging in well-drained soil should suffice. If you are planting perennial vines, however, you will want to plant them as if you are planting a shrub by digging a deep hole and filling it with good soil.
If you are planting near the house, be careful to place the vine far enough from the foundation to allow ample room for growth.
Also keep in mind the location as vines placed against a sunny wall will get reflective heat, so they should receive extra watering in hot weather.
(Gardening Guru tip: If you are planting close to a wall or foundation, the soil may be poor and may need extra preparation. As such, the hole should be at least two feet square).
Break up the bottom soil and mix in bone meal, peat moss, etc. before planting your vine species.
Vines can be used to soften lines of buildings, link landscapes together, or to camouflage less attractive spots in the landscape.
Decorative and functional vines, for instance, often are used in garden landscapes for situations such as covering walls of homes, groundcovers for foundations and banks, a spreading carpet of flowers and/or greenery over walls, and a way of making fences seem friendlier and stone buildings less harsh.
The best use of a vine is to position it to become a focal point in the garden, like a colourful clematis climbing a trellis that towers over the rest of the plants or vines climbing over a pergola or awning to create a private spot in the shade.
The methods by which vines climb can vary. Vines having tendrils (i.e., grapes and Virginia creeper), which reach out and grasp small objects to hold on to, need a lattice or fence to adhere to.
Others have adhesive discs that fasten on to a brick or stone wall while others (clematis, hops, honeysuckle, and trumpet vine) twine around other branches or poles.
One word of warning with this type is that they can be parasitic by climbing over small bushes and trees and completely strangling them. So you need to watch in order to keep them in check and prune appropriately.
No vine should be unsupported, however, and attractive vines are those which are carefully trained and held up. Supports such as arbours, trellises, and pergolas need not be elaborately constructed since their function is to display the vine, not themselves.
Wood or other material that does not require painting is ideal for the natural woods are really more suitable as a background for vines than are the painted ones.
Use your imagination—and possibly some garage sale finds—to create your own unique support.
Give vines a chance and be creative. I’ve made sure to include vines in my landscape design. I have two four-year-old clematis in my garden in Thunder Bay that now grow four feet wide and more than 15 feet tall.
The vines grow side by side, creating a wall of purple and dark pink flowers that fill an eight-foot wide nook on the house. It is a spectacular display at its peak.
Two new arbours being added this season will host hardy kiwi and trumpet vine (to attract hummingbirds).
So I encourage you to plant a vine this year to add that extra special feature to your garden.