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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Getting a grip

As my garden fills up, there’s still room to squeeze in some vines. Last week I planted a new native honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’) along the side of the house. 

This is how I hope 'Major Wheeler' will look

This honeysuckle will need better supports than the horizontal wires I put up for its predecessor, a variegated kiwi vine that succumbed to scale. Its cousin around the corner weaves in and out of a metal trellis.

Modest trellis is enough because lack of root space keeps this honeysuckle small

    When I choose vines, I have to be conscious of how they climb. A guest recently asked whether the climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) wasn’t going to kill the red oak it has impressively enrobed. 

Climbing hydrangea surrounds the red oak's trunk

The answer is no, because this vine clings to the tree’s bark harmlessly with aerial rootlets. It doesn’t cut off the flow of nutrients up the trunk the way twiners like invasive Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) can do. The bittersweet kills trees and shrubs both by girdling their trunks and by smothering them with heavy vegetation that deprives them of sunlight and water.
Oriental bittersweet smothering trees

    I can guide clematis vines to use shrubs and trees as supports because they too hold on without causing damage. I find their method rather adorable. The petioles (leaf stems) curl around twigs or thin trellis wires. They can easily be unwound if you want the vine to go in a different direction. Their modest foliage will not shade out the host shrub.

I string wires along lattice for clematis to hold onto

    Some of my other vines count on me to attach them to their supports. I read that trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) has aerial roots, but in my garden for a number of years it’s just sent up long stems that I can weave into the porch railings. If I don’t, it flops over, but that doesn’t stop its vigorous growth. I cut it down to the ground three years ago when we were revising and painting the porch. The next year it was back sprouting from the base, and this year despite the drought it’s putting on substantial growth.

The trumpet vine is held back too by a tough growing environment

    My climbing rose ‘New Dawn’ is one that true rosarians eye askance, perhaps for the very reason I like it—it’s a strong grower that’s hard to kill. For years we enjoyed its blush pink flowers in May and June. 

'New Dawn'--it works for me

Like all climbing roses, it sends up long canes that lean against the trellis. They may weave in and out for support, but they don’t cling on with tendrils or rootlets. The rose was cut down for painting too. It was starting to come back until this year’s drought turned its leaves brown. I hope it will revive next year.

    On the deck I’m enjoying the tendrils of cucumber vines. These are so agile that they almost seem to be reaching out and curling in front of my eyes. They’re ready to grasp any support they can find, including stems from their own parent plant. Even if we don’t get fruit, these cucumbers are worth growing just to see the tendrils twine.

Cucumber tendrils grab each other

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this piece about climbers, and how that work. I can't class myself as a rosarian - so I guess that is why I would never dismiss it. You made me think I should really think about adding it to my new garden.