This Flowering Vines
There’s something irresistibly romantic about a split-rail fence softened with intense clove-scented sweetpeas. Flowering vines of all sorts add an extravagant air to outdoor living areas. Whether a living curtain of morning glories softly shading a west kitchen window or a white picket fence embellished with a tumble of bright, sunny black-eyed Susan vines, flowering vines can add privacy, disguise harsh landscape elements, and give an aura of beauty.
Many annual vines grow fast enough to cover a trellis in only a few weeks. By mid-season, you can have an entire trellis softly covered with foliage to block the winds, offer some shade and add privacy.
The options for using annual vines are endless. Plant them in the ground in front of a window pane trellis or a tree wrapped with a flexible trellis. Use them in a planter box with a redwood fan, a pot with a topiary frame, or in a hanging basket or window box.
A particularly attractive option if you have limited room is to construct a trellis in a planter box on a deck or balcony. Annual vines covering the trellis will add beauty without sacrificing room.
Most annual vines attach themselves to a supporting structure with twining stems or twining tendrils. This allows them to attach easily to chain link, wire or thin strips of wood. Although it takes considerably more work to train one of these vines to a trellis made of wide boards, it can be done. They will not cling to a brick or wooden wall, though.
It may take some assistance from you to get them started onto a trellis, but once they’ve taken hold, your job is finished except to sit back and enjoy. A good way to “help” plants onto trellises is with vinyl-covered fencing. This is heavier than chicken wire, has holes about 1 x 2 inches and lasts several seasons because of the vinyl coating. The vines and tendrils twine readily around the thin wires. This fencing is fairly inexpensive and since the vinyl coating is green, it literally disappears from view when it’s in place.
Now for the vines! Sweetpeas (Lathyrus odorata), old-fashioned favorites, come in all sizes, from two feet and bushy to eight foot climbers. Their pea blossoms range from splendid scarlet to soft pink to white to purple with all combinations of bi-colors. Although their beauty can be overwhelming, perhaps their best trait is the intoxicating perfume. Sweetpeas bloom best in full sun in the cooler weather of spring and summer. They need rich soil that retains moisture, and can be planted directly outside after frost or started indoors about six weeks before the last frost.
Morning glories (Ipomoea purpurea), with their familiar clear blue, pink, scarlet or magenta trumpets, are some of the fastest growing annual vines with the added benefit of glorious flower displays. Whorled buds unfurl gracefully each morning and fade by early evening, only to be replaced by new buds for the next morning.
Morning glories are a logical choice for containers with trellises since the plants can get somewhat rampant in the garden. They will grow in almost any soil, in full sun or partial shade, and are easily started directly in the garden after frost is passed. Morning glory seed has a hard seed coat, be sure to soak the seed overnight or nick the coat with a file before sowing seed in prepared garden soil.
A close companion to the Morning glory is Moonflower or Moon Vine (Ipomoea alba). Its crystal white flowers resemble morning glory blossoms, but unlike Morning glories which peak in the morning, its blossoms open as dusk approaches and remain open through the night. As the flowers open, a sensual perfume begins to waft through the evening. Moonflowers on a trellis next to a bedroom window is the stuff dreams are made of. They require the same growing conditions as Morning glory, but do not have quite the rampant habit.
For a dense screen coupled with unique flowers, consider the Balloon Vine or Love-in-a-Puff (Cardiospermum halicacabum) or Cup-and-Saucer vine (Cobaea scandens). Both vines will cover a trellis or pergola quickly to give you shade or a solid screen. Balloon vines, which grow to ten feet, have tiny white orchid-like flowers followed by whimsical greenish balloon fruits. Plant balloon vines in full sun and average garden soil after danger of frost has passed. Cup-and-Saucer vines have peculiar reddish-purple cup-shaped flowers, nestled in light green saucers. Start seeds indoors about six weeks before the last frost or seed directly into the garden after danger of frost has passed. These prolific vines can stretch to twenty feet in one season.
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus), another old-fashioned flower, deserves its place alongside other annual vines. Although it grows only to about six feet, it is a beautiful companion to other vines that grow higher. Its bright yellow, orange, red and white spurred flowers appear like jewels amid round matte-finish dusty green leaves. The blossoms have an extraordinarily sweet scent that will fill a room when cut and brought indoors. A close relative, Canary flower or Canary Bird Vine, (Tropaeolum peregrinum) will envelop a trellis with small feathery yellow flowers and delicate palmate leaves. All Nasturtiums grow and bloom best in poor soil. Rich soil will produce abundant foliage and few flowers. Seed Nasturtiums and Canary flowers directly into the garden after the soil has warmed somewhat.
Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) is a delicate vine that grows only to about six feet. Although it can be trained onto a trellis, its best use is in a hanging basket or window box where its thin stems can dangle in the wind. The blue-green foliage is decorated with bright orange, gold, yellow or white flowers with dark brown eyes. The aging flowers turn varying shades of cream to yellow, so the plant is covered with many variations of color at one time. Start seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost, and provide well-drained soil and full sun.
Hyacinth Bean (Dolichos lablab) produces attractive blue-green leaves to complement its striking dark purple pea-like flowers and lovely purple bean pods. Hyacinth beans can grow to 15 feet or more in a summer if given average garden soil and plenty of water. Sow seeds directly in the garden after danger of frost has passed.
When planning to use annual vines, keep in mind that combinations can be absolutely charming. Combine old-fashioned Sweetpeas with Morning glories to cover the upper and lower parts of a trellis. Canary vine combined with climbing Nasturtium or Hyacinth bean makes a truly beautiful display.