Need to screen something unattractive from your view or enhance privacy when neighbours are within less than a stone's throw? Fencing and lattice screens can be useful but why not create a leafy living wall with four-season interest? Vines satisfy on all levels. Not only visually beautiful, they can be a food source for people and wildlife, quell neighbourhood noise and provide enticing scent with summer's blooms and arresting, vivid colour as the season changes.
Stems support most plants, buds, flowers and fruit and generally grow in an upright position. The stems of vines, or climbers as they are also called, either grow along the ground (prostrate) or must be supported by some means of vertical support or structure such as an obelisk, pagoda, trellis or arbour.
The methods of climbing vary. Twining vines such as hops and honeysuckle coil around a support in a spiral habit clockwise. Others, such as Dutchman's pipe and wisteria, twine counter-clockwise. Virginia creeper attaches itself by adhesive tendril tips that cling sturdily to fences and outside walls without any additional support. Ivies (Hedera spp.) are also self-clinging but use aerial roots to support the plant. Clematis is distinguished by curling leafstalks that act as tendrils that attach themselves to supports.
Bougainvillea, a non-hardy climber, attaches itself only loosely to its support and must be tied in or it will sprawl horizontally.
Some vines require at least six hours a day of full sun while others are more tender and prefer a protected location. Growth habits vary greatly and a combination of annual vines or interweaving perennial vines can create a stunning tapestry on either a large scale or for a deck, porch or balcony. Select your site carefully, giving consideration to not only the visual impact but also the exposure.
Some perennial vines to look for this spring:
Autumn revolution bittersweet (celastrus scandens bailumn), native to North America, has both male and female parts, which means it is self fertile. No pollinator is needed for the extraordinary production of golden yellow berries with scarlet-coloured seeds. This twining woody vine, hardy to zone 2, has glossy green leaves that turn bright yellow in the fall. Climbs to 25 feet. The persistent berries provide a food source for birds. Plant in full sun.
Arctic beauty hardy kiwi (actinidia kolomikta 'Arctic beauty') is a deciduous twining vine with five-inch leaves that start out dark green to purple and mature to pink and white variegated coloration. It is the hardiest kiwi known and creates a lush canopy over a trellis or arbour, growing to a height of 15 to 20 feet. Plant in full sun.
Actinidia arguta is a hardy kiwi for Manitoba gardeners.
Produces small green, hairless fruit in fall that is much sweeter than the store-bought variety. An adaptable, heavy producer, it grows to 20 feet high and features fragrant whitish-green flowers. Look for the Issai variety. Zone 4.
Atomic red trumpet vine (campsis radicans stromboli) has striking appeal with dramatic trumpet-shaped orange-red three- to four-inch flowers in summer to early autumn. Attract both hummingbirds and fellow gardeners to your yard with this gorgeous vine. The blooms are formed in clusters and open individually for a long-lasting display.
Native to eastern North America, it is classified as zone 4 and should be planted in a location where it receives some protection. Prefers morning sun and some respite from the afternoon sun. Climbs by aerial roots to 25 feet high on either a strong trellis or an outside wall. Yellow fall foliage.
Clematis (clematis spp.) A long-lived plant, clematis (from the Greek word klematis, meaning a climbing plant) is a flowering climber that is hardy to zone 2. The leaves are opposite with three leaflets. A loamy soil is best -- amend with organic matter such as compost and ensure soil is evenly moist until the plant is established. Mulching the soil surface ensures cool roots. Another option is to plant hostas or roses to shade the base of the plant.
Spring flowering varieties such as Duchess of Edinburgh or Bee's Jubilee bloom on last year's wood. Prune as soon as blooming is finished so the plant has the rest of the season to set buds for the next year. Summer blooming varieties such as the president or Comtesse de Bouchard and jackmanii should be pruned in late fall or early spring.
Varieties such as Nelly Moser and Guernsey cream re-bloom in the fall. Early flowering Beth Currie clematis features overlapping plum-purple petals with a crimson central bar and creamy-red anthers, giving it almost a vintage look. Grows to eight feet high.
Dropmore scarlet trumpet honeysuckle is a hardy, reliable twining vine, developed by Frank Skinner of Dropmore, Man. Featuring bright orange-scarlet tubular flowers from June to September, it is best grown in full sun for the best show. The leaves are in pairs with the last two fused and completely encircling the stem. Look for Honeybelle (Lonicera x brownie Bailelle), which features a waterfall of golden blossoms well into fall and is hardy to -39 C. Hops (Humulus lupulus) This aggressive vine is true to its name: lupulus means wolf. The plant is a botanical wolf, strangling as it climbs. It grows an amazing 12 inches a day, climbing to 20 feet in a single season. A hardy native, it dies down to the ground each winter. A strong support is essential. It's huge, three- or five-lobed heart-shaped leaves make an excellent shady canopy.
The hops have been used in Europe for brewing beer since the 1300s. Brewing hops are now being grown commercially in Manitoba. If your preference is for yellow-green foliage, look for the aureus variety. It's not as rampant but is excellent for contrast.
Climbing hydrangea (hydrangea anomala subsp. Petiolaris): This zone 4 climber is thriving in a shady River Heights garden, completely covering an outer two-storey wall. The sweetly fragrant lacy white flowers are nondescript but the exfoliating bark (similar to Ninebark) and heart-shaped leaves have their own appeal. Climbs by extremely tenacious aerial roots.
Wisteria: Blue moon wisteria (wisteria macrostachya) prompted huge excitement some years ago when it became available at local garden centres but few admitted to any real success. Aunt Dee will apparently do well in protected zone 4 areas but now there is a hardier variety called Betty Matthews, also known as Summer Cascade. Named after an elderly gardener in Minneapolis who grew it for 40 years, it was cloned by the University of Minnesota.
Some wisteria can take several years before the seven- to 12-inch floral clusters begin to appear -- this one is a young bloomer but in our zone 3 climate, you will need to identify a microclimate in your garden. It's possible!
There is a huge variety of annual vines available -- black-eyed Susan, cup and saucer, morning glory, wild cucumber, to name a few -- but these two will stir considerable interest:
Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia durior is an exotic and unusual annual vine that is a real showstopper when it is in bloom. Children will likely find this plant fascinating. A vigorous grower with large, heart-shaped leaves. Grows flat against a trellis or use for covering a porch or pergola.
Purple bell vine (rodochiton atrosanguineum) is sweetly pretty with flared tubular flowers that are maroon-pink. Flowers profusely in partial sun. Soil should be moist and well-drained. Try this twining climber in a hanging basket, too.