The Q&A Archives: climbing container garden

Question: I have a small 26th floor terrace facing almost due south. The terrace is partially recessed, with brick walls on each side - the west side gets more sun than the east. In summer, it's like a furnace with direct sun, reflected light, and trapped heat, though it gets a great breeze from the east. In winter, it's a typical zone 6/7 temperature with aforementioned breeze.
I need suggestions on container vines that will cover the brick walls, climb some support netting to shelter the worst of the direct sun, and satisfy my love of climbing plants. I especially like Virginia creeper, honeysuckle, wisteria - all perennials. The size of the containers I could use is obviously limited, so I'm not sure if the plants I really like would thrive.
I love lots of leaves and color and could forego flowers in exchange for hardiness. And don't mention ivy - I hate it.

Answer: For the brick walls you will need a plant capable of climbing by holdfasts such Virginia Creeper. (Although you hate ivy you might find some of the specialty collector varieties of Hedera helix palatable.) Another possibility is Euonymous fortunei in one of its many forms. (This plant is often classed as a shrub but it will also cling and climb.) These three plants could potentially be used on all three sides.

I should caution you that trellis can act like a sail in wind and is also very heavy especially once it is covered in plants. For a trellis covering you might try one of the smaller native honeysuckles such as Lonicera sempervirens (it is semi-deciduous). I believe the wisteria would be too heavy and require too large a container and too strong a trellis for this location; it also often takes nearly ten years for wisteria to come into bloom.

ou might consider some of the annual tropical flowering vines such as morning glory, cardinal climber or moonflower. In addition to a longer season of bloom, the annuals would allow you to remove the trellis and cut down the vines to enable sun to come into the terrace during the offseason when you might enjoy it.

No matter what you select, the larger the containers the better. You might find some helpful suggestions for care and maintenance in the book "Container Gardening for Dummies" by Bill Marken, ISBN0-7645-5057-8. Good luck with your project!

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