29.12.10

Those Beautiful, Tempting, Devilish Flowering Vines-Part 1
The Speedy Ones

At some point in every gardener's career, you will consider planting a flowering vine. It could be that you saw a vine trained on a trellis, or saw one at a public garden, or perhaps was smitten by a photo in a garden magazine. There are magnificent books written about flowering vines ( as opposed to foliage vines), and the pictures are very tempting indeed.



Philippine Jade Vine
Strongylodon macrobotrys




Red Passion Flower
Passiflora vitifolia


Sky Vine
Thunbergia grandiflora


Red Jade Vine
Mucuna bennettii




Stictocardia beraviensis
extremely fast grower


There are dozens of great flowering vines available at specialty nurseries.All of them have something to offer, but there are some aspects of flowering vines you should recognize before you buy them. One of the most common comments I hear about flowering vines is that the have outgrown their trellises or fences. I can't help but think ( quietly, to myself) " did you really think the vine would just stop growing where you wanted it to ?" Of course the vine grew !! Vines of almost any sort need some level of management, as with any fast-growing plant. Every vine I know of will over-grow its mount if allowed to, so make sure you have enough room to accommodate the chosen plant.

There are dozens of species to choose from, and one grower I know of classified them into 3 speed categories: modest, speedy, and 'don't stand too close to it'. Unfortunately, some of the most beautiful vines are aggressive, fast growing plants that will rapidly cover several hundred or even several thousand square feet of trellis or fence. In my usual fashion I recommend a good bit of homework before you plant a vine into the ground permanently. If you have a very large dead tree to devote to a flowering vine, or a LOT of fence, or a very long arbor-trellis-pergola, you can choose almost any vine that will grow in your climate. The Miami- based  Tropical Flowering Tree Society ( TFTS.org) can help with plant choices as well as sourcing plants for you.

Many people mistakenly believe that vines are just thin, herbaceous affairs with pretty flowers. NOT TRUE ! Some vines have 2 inch thick woody stems, and the whole vine can weigh many hundreds of pounds. Left to their own devices, some fast growing species can consume an entire forest, or at the very least, dominate a large part of your yard !! Therefore, I suggest a stout trellis or arbor, made of heavy gauge pressure treated wood trellis and posts, sunk into the ground into concreted post holes. There are some vines that can grow nicely in a large container on a wire trellis, but there are far more species which need serious support to grow large enough to make a good show.

As with almost any kind of plant, there are choices for your budget, available growing space and growth speed. Choose wisely, and think about how the vine will grow in the next few years. It's OK to trim vines to control their growth, but find the growing tip of a vine, then track it back to where you wish to prune the plant. Do NOT "hedge-cut" vines since you may be cutting off major food supply vines without knowing it.
Flowering vines can make a grand statement for your garden, but please choose wisely and with forethought. You will save yourself a great deal of headache and backache.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens
                

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