Decorate your garden with vines – Winnipeg Free Press

Decorate your garden with vines – Winnipeg Free Press

There are plenty of opportunities in early spring for gardeners to create year-round beauty with vines and climbers. While the bare bones of the garden are still leafless and flowerless, look closely at its framework and structure. Where can you add instant height and year-round architectural interest with a garden arch, pergola, trellis or obelisk? There are several distinct types of plants to choose from that will climb wood or metal structures, cascade across exterior walls, frame doorways, enhance privacy, and adorn your outdoor rooms with vibrant flowers, interesting foliage, and delicate fragrances.

Jasmine, one of the most popular garden plants, climbs by twining. It makes an impressive statement whether you choose hybrids with large flowers or varieties with smaller flowers. Remember to plant your jasmine plant in a full sun location that has well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Shade the roots with a layer of compost. Planting a ground cover will help keep the roots cool, too. I love this example from John Lepper, a Winnipeg gardener, who grows a carpet of purslane around the base of his clematis. Portulaca is a creeping flowering annual that self-sows and often returns the following year.

Clematis Jackmanii, introduced by English gardener George Jackman more than 160 years ago, is loved by gardeners around the world for its violet-purple flowers. In Susan Belenkov’s garden in south Winnipeg, a Jackmanii clematis grows on a sturdy wooden trellis next to the outside wall of her garage. She placed them alongside the large leaves of Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) that surround her unique wood and stainless steel garden gate. Virginia creeper also requires strong support and climbs by tendrils. Adaptable, grows in full sun to full shade. Together, jasmine and Virginia climber create a stunning, leafy backdrop in Belenkov’s stunning garden.

Errol Belenkov
This garden gem is enhanced by Clematis Jackmanii vines growing on a trellis on the outside wall of the homeowner’s garage.

In fall, the large leaves of Virginia creeper turn a stunning shade of red, and the decorative, silky seed heads decorate the jackmani clematis. Jackmanii Superba is an improved version, but a protected location will provide the best results. It is not possible to list here all the types of jasmine that can be grown but two hardy types are Blue Boy and Blue Bird which were bred by Frank Leith Skinner, the famous Canadian plant man who lived in Dropmore, Manitoba.

Virginia creeper, on the other hand, is indestructible and will grow practically anywhere. In the shade garden I’ve visited over the years, there was a wooden arch or arbor covered in lush layers of Virginia creepers that made an enchanting sight.

Val Thomson makes the most of vertical touches in her expansive 5-acre garden in Birtle. On a visit to Spain in 2001, she was inspired to use grape vines for decoration. “I saw grape vines running up the walls of houses and along upstairs balconies, with thick ropes of logs and fruit hanging from them. This is the look I tried to recreate,” Thompson says.

Thompson chose two grape varieties, one of which is Valiant. As a climbing vine, many vigorous grape varieties grow to two or more meters at maturity with a spread of over one metre. She dug deep holes spaced 10 feet (3 m) apart and filled the holes with cement. Long 4×4 wood posts (“they’ll never come out,” she says) were inserted and the cross pieces were joined. “I wrapped bird netting around each post and across the top to support the vines,” Thompson says. A vine is installed at the base of each column except for one column, which was planted with Bill McKenzie, a vigorous climber with bell-shaped flowers.

Thompson mercilessly prunes any side shoots that appear along the vines to keep growth at the top of the trellis. A grape trellis creates an inspiring backdrop for what she calls her hot garden that features other strong vertical accents like mullein, a prolific spreading plant if there ever was one. But in Thompson’s garden, the architectural stems are kept from spreading their seeds to help her achieve the unique, stately layered look she seeks in her garden design.

Colin Zacharias/The Free Press Create a scene with a tree covered in vines.  Shown: Virginia creeper vine.

Colin Zakaria/The Free Press
Create a scene with a tree covered in vines. Shown: Virginia creeper vine.

Arctic Beauty (Actinidia kolomikta) is a kiwi vine that tolerates temperatures down to -40 degrees Celsius. Despite its ornamental beauty and suitability for our climate with short summers, the hardy kiwi is an often underrated plant. Rod Koenman, co-founder of the Sustainable South Osborne Community Cooperative and a senior researcher in the Department of Sociology at the University of Manitoba, grows Arctic Beauty on a chain-link fence between his yard and his neighbor’s yard. For proper pollination, he purchased female plants and a male plant. Two female plants and one male plant is the norm, but Koenman bought three female plants and one male plant. That was 10 years ago. Kiwi vines start out slowly, but in each of the past two years, Koenman has been able to harvest three gallons of kiwifruit.

“The fruit is shaped like a football with elongated ends, is twice the size of a haska fruit, and has a sweet taste similar to the kiwi fruit sold in the grocery store,” Koenman says. The fruits contain small seeds and must be picked when ripe otherwise they will fall to the ground. “The neighbor’s dog loves the taste of fruit,” says Koenemann.