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Tropical Beauties – Flowering Vines For The Garden

Vines are the special effects department of the garden. They bring vertical lines that draw your eye upward. Climbing vines can make a small garden seem larger. Their twining, tendrilled forms bring a touch of romance or whimsy to an otherwise staid landscape, adding a sense of motion. Vines are fun to have in the garden. And tropical vines are spectacular. Their flowers are big and beautiful, and come in brilliant reds, oranges, golds, and bright pink, as well as softer pinks, yellows and creamy white. Here on the East End these exotic beauties won’t return to the landscape year after year, but they can be a big presence for a glorious summer season. Most local nurseries and garden centers sell them, and they’ll add excitement to your patio, deck or garden until frost shuts them down. Here are some ways to use them, and some vines to bring home this summer.

Tropical vines can grow in the ground or in large pots and tubs on a deck or patio. Let them climb skyward on a fence, trellis, garden netting, or even a series of sturdy strings. Train them up and over an arch or arbor at the entrance to the garden or above a path or walkway. Use vines to frame a gate or decorate a lamppost. Or plant them in tubs or large pots, with a stake or tripod or other vertical support. Some nurseries sell vine topiaries, with straight, bare stems of mandevilla or allamanda trained up a stake with a ball of foliage and flowers at the top. They can work like small trees on a patio or deck, or can frame a door. Make a tropical vine the showstopping centerpiece of a mixed tub or a large pot, trained on a tripod or trellis and surrounded by lower, bushier plants. Of course, there are plenty of hardy perennial vines that can play the same roles in the landscape – honeysuckle and climbing hydrangea, for instance – but the tropicals are showier and more dramatic. Use them to make an impact on your summer deck or patio, around the pool, or even in the landscape. Love them for one brilliant summer season, then let them go. And start again with new ones next summer.

Here are some tropical vines to add excitement to your summer garden, deck or patio:

Allamanda is a golden trumpet vine that has bright yellow trumpet-shaped flowers about 4 inches long. Train it on a trellis or fence, let it climb the supports of a gazebo or garden canopy, or fasten it to the railing of a deck or porch.

Bougainvillea is a familiar presence in southern California, the desert Southwest and south Florida. But it makes a seasonal appearance on the East End of Long Island, too, usually as tree-form standards or tumbling from hanging baskets. Dry weather, which we often experience here in summer, suits them. Their flowers (actually petallike bracts which surround the true, tiny white flowers in the center) bloom in warm shades of pink, magenta, orange, salmon, gold, yellow, purple and white. In whatever form you have it, water only when the soil dries out. Bougainvillea will take as much sun as you can give it.

Jasmine isn’t flashy – its flowers are star-shaped and white – but they are richly fragrant, and their scent intensifies at night, to attract the moths that pollinate them. Jasmine can be found locally, mostly as a gift plant, in hanging baskets. Some jasmines grow in a bushier form. Whichever type you find, place the pot somewhere you spend time in the summer – near your favorite lounge chair, or near a window – where its sweet scent can perfume the air around you.

Mandevilla is a vine you have surely spotted in a local nursery or garden center…they are widely available in summer. This twining vine has oblong deep green leaves and clusters of large trumpet-shaped flowers of a rich shade of pink, which it produces in groups almost continually in warm weather. It’s usually available trained upright on a tripod or trellis. Give it a sunny spot, fertilize regularly and aim to keep the soil evenly moist, not sopping wet or desert dry.

Passionflowers are a group of tropical or subtropical vines which have exotically beautiful blossoms. The flowers are intricately structured, with wide petals and a “crown” of filaments in the center of the blossom. They are lovely on a trellis, for decoration or as a screen. Give them a location in full sun to partial shade, in soil that is moist but well drained.