Magazine article Sunset

Versatile Vine

Magazine article Sunset

Versatile Vine

Article excerpt

Whether you train them up a post or let them sprawl, vines are incredibly obliging. Here are four easy ways to grow them

Vines are models of versatility. Once established, they provide privacy and they camouflage, converting unattractive necessities like storage sheds and carports into decorative backdrops. They provide shade, blocking harmful ultraviolet rays from well-used decks all summer. Come winter, when more light is welcome, the deciduous types courteously drop their leaves.

Vines can accentuate an architectural detail by outlining a porch railing, softening a roofline, or curling up a column. They add interest where there is none-greening up the narrow stucco canyons on either side of a tract house, for instance.

Garlanding entryways, vines welcome. Blanketing gazebos in the background, they beckon. Climbing a casual tepee of bamboo poles, vines add drama. Carrying color to the eye and fragrance to the nose, they contribute sensuality

And those are just the ones that grow upward. Dangling through an overhead lath, vines can envelop a patio in green drapery. Trailing downhill, bold vines like bougainvillea turn slopes into riots of color. Vines can grow horizontally too. Delicate ones are particularly good this way. Clematis, for example, can weave through campanula as readily as it can reach for a rose.

In addition, vines are notoriously easy to grow. Most are light feeders, and many are drought-tolerant. Best of all, they require little ground space-just enough soil for their roots and stems. Even the smallest garden can squeeze one in. Isn't there room for a vine in yours?

How to choose a vine

Find suitable locations for vines in your garden before you shop. Are the potential sites sunny or shady? Are there other factors to consider? Boggy ground suitable only for plants that love wet feet, for instance, or lots of reflected light that heat lovers could tolerate? How's the soil? Is the planting area you have in mind under eaves where the vine won't get rain? How will you irrigate-drip, soaker hose, or by hand?

Flowers or foliage or both? Will the vine be a solid backdrop to set off your flowering plants? If so, evergreens like star jasmine or creeping fig are what you want. For shade in the summer and sun in the winter, on the other hand, shop for something deciduous like grape or wisteria. If it's sky-high flowers you're after, when and in what color do you want them?

Clinger or nonclinger? Vines with their own Velcro-like pads, such as Boston ivy, attach themselves to any rough surface without help. But don't grow them next to wood shingles or surfaces you'll repaint often, because clingers don't detach willingly. The majority of vines, however, climb with clasping tendrils or by twining and need three-dimensional support. …

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