Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 8, Issue 3
   March 2013
   Vines: The Living Drapes of the Garden
Window box with vinesWindow box with vines
A window box with potato vine and climbing thunbergia vine
Vines serve numerous design functions. They are the go-to plants for covering unsightly walls and adorning fences, arbors and gazebos. In new gardens, they provide much-needed shade for decks and patios. They lessen winds, thereby creating favorable microclimates for nearby plants. Vines provide continuity between plants and garden areas, linking the elements of the garden into a unified composition. Cascading over a wall or trained on an obelisk, they make striking focal points.

Vines have flexible stems that are easily trained on wires or lattices into espalier-style forks, fans, rectangles and diamonds. In the woodland garden, shade-tolerant vines such as climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris), Baltic English ivy (Hedera helix 'Baltica') and Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Veitchii'), can be trained to climb trees or, if you prefer, spread across the earth and used as groundcovers. I once saw a climbing hydrangea planted in a decaying stump, which created the illusion of an erupting green volcano. It was both unusual and attractive. Another interesting application is to train clematis through the contorted branches of a dead corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana 'Contorta'). Clematis can also be planted under and trained up through yew shrubs (Taxus spp.) to provide colorful floral caps. In a container, a vine such as annual passion flower (Passiflora spp.), morning glory (Ipomoea spp.) or potato vine (Solanum jasminoides), supported by a tripod, adds further prominence to the arrangement.
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