by Mary Stickley-Godinez
I really love to use vines in my gardens. Whether draping a wall or arbor, winding up a tree, or covering a not-so-pretty view, these plants have numerous uses in the garden. And because there are so many uses for these workhorses there is there is no excuse. Every garden has a spot and a need for at least one.
All gardens need some verticality—something that draws the eye upward to give the space more depth and interest. Including a vine-draped arbor, or even a simple post with a circling vine, adds just the right exclamation point to a garden bed.
There is also something about a draping vine that just brings romance and softness to an area. Viewing the silhouette of that drapery against a blue sky, across a fence, or backdropped by shrubs, provides beautiful garden scenes for your eyes no matter which direction you look.
The best gardens also contain small, surprising, intimate spaces—little, cozy, spots that the visitor discovers by chance. Vines work really well to create walls of privacy for these areas.
Vines are also perfect to create quick screening. They grow fast to cover walls, fences or even posts to provide a quick surface of green to hide whatever ugly is behind it. I also love to use vines at the top of a steep slope. The vines are trained downward instead of up. It sounds a bit odd, but it is very effective and helps hold soils to prevent erosion.
As an added benefit, when they bloom the flowers are down where you can see them instead of out of sight at the top of a high beam. This trick also works really well to soften the expanse of a retaining wall.
There are both annual and perennial vines. Annuals are perfect for a space that needs really fast coverage.
They also usually bloom the majority of the season and so can bring a lot of color to a garden. Perennials have the advantage of coming back year after year. These are good to plant to create a “roof” on an arbor or can be used to add some structural interest. These will also bloom, but they usually have a shorter season of color. And, keep in mind that some vines are grown for the beauty of the foliage instead of the flowers.
Sometimes, however, you need coverage year round. There are evergreen vines that stay green throughout the season. Others grow so vigorously that the mass of stems can provide the screening even though they are bare of leaves. Don’t be afraid to mix and match some of these. Annual vines can be mixed to create beautiful color, pattern, or texture combinations.
You can also plant several perennial vines together in order have blooms several times during the season. For example, you might plant a wisteria that blooms in the spring, a midsummer flowering clematis and lacevine for some interest in the fall all on the same support. I do suggest that you not plant annual and perennial vines together. It is too difficult to remove the dead vines of the annual from the more permanent perennial ones.
Vines do so much to create beautiful garden spaces. And they have so many uses. So be sure to include them and you will find your vines have not only encircled your garden but they have also entwined your heart.