Vines soften sharp edges of structures in landscape |

Vines soften sharp edges of structures in landscape

Nebraska Statewide Arboretum
Lincoln, Neb.

Why vines? Maybe it’s simply that we prefer green.

There are plenty of structures in our lives – houses, garages, fences, clotheslines, mailboxes, and compost bins. Vines meld and soften all the hard edges, blurring the boundaries between garden and fence and gutter and house, extending green far into places where no garden exists.

They can provide quick privacy, screen buildings or parking lots, give shade – some of them within just a month or two – and define and separate distinct areas in a garden. Areas that are awkwardly shaped can be softened with vines. Many vines have beautiful blossoms and good fall color; a few are evergreen in Nebraska.

Though vines tend to be used as climbers, they also work well as ground covers, twisting around rocks and through low-growing perennials and shrubs, adding dramatic bursts of color when blooming. Like any ground cover plant, they function much like a mulch, shading the roots of perennials and competing with weeds.

Vines extend themselves in a variety of ways and the differences are important in deciding which plant to put in a particular spot or to climb an existing structure. Twining vines like honeysuckle and morning glory wrap around their support so they require fairly thin surfaces like wire, string, netting, small poles and slats. Clasping vines like clematis, grape and porcelain berry also require thin wire or netting for support but in their case the entire stem doesn’t spiral but has tendrils, specialized stems, that wrap around the structure. Clinging vines, on the other hand, cannot attach themselves to netting or string. Their aerial roots or “holdfasts” adhere to almost any flat surface but they prefer slightly rough surfaces like unpolished stone or brick or rough bark (e.g. Boston and English ivy).

It’s also important to know the eventual size or weight of the vine. The trunks of some clinging vines, like climbing hydrangea, can require strong support in just a few growing seasons.

Some of the vines listed below are very aggressive (sweet autumn clematis, porcelain berry, perennial pea, etc.) so do some research before planting!

– Hardy kiwi. White flowers in May; male and female plants required for fruit set.

– Chocolate vine. Purple flowers in spring.

– Porcelain berry. Bright berries through summer.

– Dutchman’s pipe. Small, inconspicuous greenish flowers.

– American bittersweet. Crimson berries in fall; male and female plants required for fruit set.

– Alpine clematis. Early, profuse blossoms in a variety of colors.

– Downy clematis. Blue flowers early summer; silvery seedheads.

– Sweet autumn clematis. Small, white flowers late summer and early fall.

– Clematis Montana. Light-colored flowers in early summer.

– Golden clematis. Yellow flowers late summer/fall. Fluffy seed heads.

– Sweet autumn clematis. Varied color flowers in early fall.

– Scarlet clematis. Red flowers midsummer to early fall; more tolerant of dry soils than most clematis.

– Italian clematis. Purple flowers midsummer to early fall.

– Jackman clematis. Varied color flowers June to September.

– Lemon lace vine. Golden leaves with red stems in early spring, foamy white flowers in fall.

-English ivy. Evergreen; foliage turns purplish with cold temperatures.

– Climbing hydrangea. White flowers through summer; good fall color.

– Perennial pea. Multi-colored flowers with small green pods.

– Trumpet honeysuckle. Scarlet-orange flowers and red berries summer into fall.

– Goldflame honeysuckle. Fragrant, reddish flowers through summer.

– Virginia creeper. Scarlet fall color.

– Boston ivy. Leaves are brilliant red in fall, dark berries.

– Silver lace vine. Fragrant varied colors in early summer.

– Vitis species, grape. Edible fruits.

– Japanese wisteria. Varied color flowers April to May.

– American wisteria. Flowers June to August; needs strong support.

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