Climbing vines add a unique layer to the landscape, but beware: they require a lot of discipline Home and garden

Climbing vines add a unique layer to the landscape, but beware: they require a lot of discipline  Home and garden

Vines are an amazing collection of plants with enough diversity to boggle the mind. What ties these wonderful plants together is their universal lack of sturdy stems. That's right: vines are lazy plants that rely on some other plant or structure to grow upward, or they simply work their way up to the ground.

No other group of plants can be used to create the effects that vines have on the landscape. They can soften and connect architectural structures such as pergolas, balconies, buildings, fences and arches to the surrounding gardens. Vines can be used to provide shade, privacy, flowers, ground covers, edible or attractive fruits, perfumes, and food for wildlife.

It would be difficult to imagine a well-cultivated landscape without vines somewhere.

But gardeners often do not realize that vines need training almost from the moment they are planted.

Wisteria is a particularly fast-growing vine. Staff photo by Bill Figg

It is very important to know how to climb the vine you intend to plant. Vines climb in two different ways: by twining and clinging.

  • Chromium twinning Climb by wrapping its stems, leaves or tendrils around a support. It should have strings, wires, lattice work, trellises, thin poles or other support structures that it can wrap around.
  • Cling to chrome They can attach to flat surfaces using aerial roots growing from their stems or special structures called anchors. They are useful for covering the sides of buildings or walls without the need to build a support.

Vines do not need to expend the energy required to produce a strong stem to hold the plant upright. So what do you think they will do with all that unused energy? It's growing. Vines are among the fastest growing plants we use in our landscapes. They have no control over themselves at all.

A vine-covered pergola provides a shaded place to sit. Staff photo by Bill Figg

You should keep this in mind when considering using chromium. Some, like wisteria, are common and should not be used unless the gardener is willing to do what it takes to manage the vine. But even vines that are not considered very vigorous generally need early and regular training to achieve the effects we want and maintain them over time.

When it comes to training vines, many gardeners don't realize how important it is to guide how the vine grows from the time it is planted and throughout its life in the garden. How to train a vine depends on how it climbs, clings or twines and what the gardener is trying to achieve.

An important characteristic of how vines grow is that they want to grow straight and reach the highest possible height as quickly as possible. The faster and higher the vine grows, the more light it reaches. Therefore, this characteristic is related to their ability to compete and survive in nature.

Sometimes the gardener takes advantage of this characteristic and encourages it. When training a vine to an arbor or pergola, it is recommended that the vine quickly reach the top and grow over the structure to provide shade below.

Trellis brackets provide support for the vine's growth. Cheryl Gerber

But in many other situations this property must be modified. When training a vine to a fence, trellis, arch or mesh panel, it is often desired that the vine be lush and full from the ground up. Many gardeners who train a vine to a trellis are dismayed to discover over the years that the vine is at the top and there are only unsightly bare stems at the bottom of the plant.

Once this happens, there is little you can do to effectively correct the situation. You should prevent this by training the vine at an early stage.

Take the example of a vine planted at the base of a mesh panel. Once in the ground, the vine will begin to quickly grow straight up the mesh panel until it reaches the top. As it continues to grow, the typical gardener will simply begin trimming off the excessive growth at the top. This in turn creates a full vine that is dense and top-heavy and leaves the bottom of the mesh panel with little or no attractive foliage.


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To prevent this, start training the vine as soon as it is planted. Loosen the buds from the stake, untangle them and unfold them, then weave the vine stems horizontally along the bottom of the mesh panel.

When the vine begins to grow upward, force it to grow sideways by weaving it horizontally through the netting. As you continue to do this over the years, you will create a full, attractive vine at the bottom of the mesh panel as well as the top.


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Once the vine reaches the top of the mesh panel, do not simply cut it off. Instead, take the long, wavy stems in the air, bend them, and weave them back under the mesh panel. This will help fill in the top of the mesh panel without creating the thick, dense top that may result from pruning. Although this example uses a mesh panel, you can apply the same information to vines growing on chain-link fences or trellises.

For chrome cling, the approach is different. When the vine is first planted, it will not cling to the support. But as new growth occurs, the vine will grab the surface and begin to grow rapidly upward. You can't pull them off the surface and try to redirect their growth the way we twin vines, so here's what you have to do.

Once the vine is attached to the surface, let it grow for 6 to 12 inches and then pinch off the ends. This will encourage the vine to branch. Once new shoots grow, pinch them a few inches, and they will branch out. This will help create a fuller appearance on the surface to be covered.


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By pinching the growing tips regularly, you delay the vine reaching the top, but you will get much better coverage in the long run. Once the attached vine covers the area you want, trim the edges regularly to keep it in place.

If you do a good job of training your vine in the first few years after planting, you will find that it really pays off in the appearance of the vine over the years. This is especially important when dealing with perennial vines that will grow in the garden for many years, but the training principles described here can also be used on annual vines, such as blue pea vine, cypress vine, morning glory and hyacinth bean.

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