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Vines By Design

Climbing, trailing and cascading plants add romance to any garden, whether they are grown in pots or in the ground. Vining plants enable gardeners to achieve visual effects that are unattainable with any other type of plant. They have a multiplicity of uses: vines can camouflage eyesores on the property, such as when they tumble over a retaining wall; they can decorate a lattice screen, create vertical interest when grown on a trellis, cover a fence, divide space, create welcome shade under an arbor, or ramble about a patch of ground. Vines are at home in gardens of many different styles. You can let them romp around in carefree abandon or carefully clip and train them into formal topiaries.

Seldom the stars or focal points of the garden, vines play an important supporting role in many successful landscapes. In the right location at a particular time of year, a vine can have its chance to shine as well. You can choose a flowering perennial vine such as clematis or trumpet creeper to bring glorious color to the garden for several weeks in spring or summer, or an annual vine like morning glory that will brighten the scene all summer long. Or you might select a climber such as jasmine or moonflower for its enchanting fragrance. 

Vines are especially delightful in outdoor living areas, adding color and a touch of romance on porches, patios and decks. If you like to group pots and planters of flowers on your deck, porch or patio in summer, include some vines to add height – they can be trained to stakes or trellises in large pots or as a centerpiece in a built-in planter box on a deck. If you are planting a large pot, you can place a trellised vine in the back (or in the center of the pot if it’s viewed from all sides) and add mid-height and lower plants for lushness and volume and trailing plants (smaller vines), such as vinca, to drape over the edges for a lush, three-dimensional mini-garden. Local nurseries sell vines trained on trellises in large pots for summer – just take one home for instant color on your deck, porch or patio, or set one in the garden to add extra pizzazz.

If you’d like more privacy on your deck or patio, you could erect a lattice panel and train vines to climb it and create a leafy – and even flowerful – screen. To create a privacy screen, plant a vine that can provide coverage. Dense vines useful for screening include grapes (imagine a grape arbor above an outdoor dining area), hops, ivies, morning glories and their relatives (add moonflower – a night-blooming relative – for a place you use at night), passionflowers, trumpet creeper and wisteria (which bedecks many East End arbors and pergolas). 

Another delightful way to put vines to work is to train them over an arch or arbor on a garden path, or a gate, or atop an outdoor staircase. The other great thing vines can do is obey gravity instead of defying it. Vines can spill over a wall, dangle from a hanging basket or drape over a fence or deck rail.  Think of vines as the special effects department of your summer garden and outdoor living areas.

Some Great Vines to Grow

Allamanda – bright yellow flowers all summer

Clematis – delightful in the garden trained on a trellis or arbor, or over a gate, flowers in shades of purple, blue, red, pink and white in late spring to early summer

Clock vine – dainty trailer or climber with dark-centered flowers that resemble little black-eyed Susans, in yellow or dusky orange

Jasmine – heavenly, sweetly fragrant, star-shaped white flowers

Mandevilla – large pink, red or white flowers all summer

Morning glory – abundant funnel-shaped blossoms of purple, pink, blue or white all summer long

Moonflower – a night-blooming morning glory relative with fragrant white flowers that bloom till frost

Passionflower – complex, beautiful blossoms on tendrilled stems

Sweet pea – spring-blooming, spicily fragrant flowers in shades of purple, pink and white

Trumpet vine – tubular flowers of orange or yellow in summer

Wisteria – drooping clusters of purple, white or bicolored flowers in spring