Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
September, 2007
Regional Report

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Common morning glory is still an absolutely beautiful addition to the trellis.

Versatile Annual Vines

When we think of vines, we tend to muse upon clematis, honeysuckle, and porcelain vine. But there is a whole other group of vines that are not only beautiful, they allow us to experiment with something new every year. Annual vines also are versatile. They will grow in pots with trellising where perennial vines wouldn't survive the winter; they will quickly cover and disguise chain-link fences; they will provide a wall of privacy where there is none, or simply adorn a blank wall.

Plant Annual Vines in Containers
Annual vines in containers are perfect for the second-story porch or deck, the house wall next to the patio, and just about anywhere you need a little extra color. The trellis in the pot can be an elaborate, expensive tuteur or as simple as three twigs or bamboo poles tied together at the top to form a tepee.

Many annual vines grow fast enough to cover a trellis in only a few weeks. Planting early in the season can allow an entire trellis to be softly covered with foliage, making it a living wall to block the winds, offer some shade on a west side, and add privacy to a deck.

Support Systems
Most annual vines attach themselves to a supporting structure with twining stems or twining tendrils. Although they will happily weave themselves once they take hold, it will take some assistance to get them started. I've had great luck helping plants onto trellises by covering the trellis with vinyl-covered "hog" fencing. This is heavier than chicken wire, has holes about 1 x 2 inches and lasts several seasons because of the vinyl coating. This fencing is fairly inexpensive, and since the vinyl coating is green, it literally disappears from view when it's in place.

When planting vines in pots, it's important to use a combination of three-quarters good quality potting soil and one-quarter organic garden soil for weight. The pots may need to be watered daily on hot, dry summer days. Remember that there is not a lot of soil supporting an incredible amount of foliage, so plants will dry out quickly.

Once trellises and planting boxes are in place, it's only a matter of choosing favorite vines. Here are some possibilities:

Sweet Pea. Old-fashioned sweet peas will climb to about 6 feet, with blossoms ranging from scarlet to pink to white to all types of bi-colors. They prefer cooler weather, so start them indoors and combine them with another vine that will take over in the heat of summer.

Morning Glory. This vine is a logical choice for a trellis, especially since it can get somewhat rampant in the garden. It often self seeds so planting it in a contained spot will let you enjoy the beautiful flowers without worrying where it's going. A beautiful combination is 'Pearly Gates', with huge white trumpets, and 'Royal Ensign' bush morning glory at the base.

Moonflower. A close companion to the morning glory is moonflower (Ipomoea alba). Blossoms are white, and unlike morning glory flowers that peak in the morning, moonflower blossoms open in the evening and remain open through the night. The best feature of moonflower is the unbelievable scent it gives freely at night.

Canary Flower. Canary flower (Tropaolum canariens) has tiny, feathery yellow flowers and delicate palmate leaves, and cardinal flower vine is similar with bright scarlet flowers.

Black-Eyed Susan Vine. Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia spp.) will fill a trellis with lovely melon-orange, pale yellow, or creamy white blossoms with a dark brown eye.

Cypress Vine. Cypress vine (Ipomoea spp.) has sage green, ferny foliage and is adorned with tiny red, pink, and white jewel-like flowers.

Hyacinth Bean. Stems of this sturdy vine (Dolichos lablab) have a purplish tint, but its best features are the purple-red flowers and deep purple, decorative beans.

Vegetable Vines
Also, don't forget about vegetable vines. There is an amazing array of vining pole beans out there, with yellow, purple, white, and scarlet flowers, not to mention the attractive purple, yellow, and green beans that follow. What a treat to step out the back door and pick dinner from your annual vine.

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