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Before you select vines to grow on a garden structure you should take into consideration the nature of your structure and match it to the vine. (For instance, the effect of an elegantly designed support would become lost under a dense-leafed climber, such as grape vine or Dutchman's pipe.) Also, ask yourself whether you would like a perennial or annual vine, a flowering vine, or would you like the vines to yield edibles as well. Consider whether the variety you choose will drop flowers or fruit that may stain lawn furniture or flooring if it is going to act as a covering to an outdoor area. Muscadine grapes may be a great vining plant but wouldn't be recommended as a choice for over a seating area.
Clematis, with its many uses, is an excellent choice for your landscape use. Clematis is among the most decorative and spectacular of all the flowering vines. A wide range of color and flower shapes may be found in the many varieties and species. They can act as accent vines when trained on arbors, light wires, or delicate trellises, but are also effective when allowed to trail over rocks, stone walls, or fences.
The large-flowered clematis hybrids are the most widely used. These hybrids are deciduous vines that climb by twining stems, which act as tendrils. They can reach a height of 8 to 10 feet. Flowering time varies according to variety but may be from late spring until frost.
American bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculata), a native plant is a vigorous vine that grows 10 to 20 feet tall and climbs by means of twining stems. It will thrive in almost any soil or exposure except a wet, boggy situation. Bittersweet is usually planted for its attractive fruit, a favorite in dried arrangements. Reddish-yellow fruit capsules open in early autumn to expose red-orange berries. The fruits are grouped in terminal clusters, which make them very striking before the leaves fall.
Freestanding trellises placed strategically in the garden can provide a privacy screen, divide one garden space from another, or act as space savers to support edibles, such as cucumbers and pole beans in a vegetable garden. Freestanding, they can also bring the fragrance of sweet peas or honeysuckle to any area where the flower's perfume can be appreciated.
Some vines have tendrils that wrap around any type of support, such as grape, sweetpea or clematis.
Twining vines climb by winding their stems around available support, such as morning glories or honeysuckle.
Other vines climb by clinging and attaching themselves to surfaces with small discs or rootlets along the stem like the climbing hydrangea or trumpet creeper vine.
Oriental bittersweet is colorful as a garden plant and quite similar to the American type, but grows more vigorously. Vines often grow 30 to 40 feet tall! The fruit is similar in appearance but is borne in lateral clusters that are smaller than the American type. Another type, the Chinese or Loesener bittersweet, is less hardy but grown because of its prolific fruiting habit.
Most vines will produce their best growth, flowers and fruit in full sun or nearly full sun. Remember to allow proper spacing and provide adequate pruning to allow for good air circulation to all parts of the plant.
Vines growing poorly should be fertilized in early spring. One cup of 5-10-5 or similar fertilizer should be worked into the soil around each vine.
If you have chosen Bittersweet (Celastrus sp.), keep in mind that this vine is not easily transplanted due to the spreading root system. Therefore small, young plants should be used. Plants grow rapidly once established, and can become a nuisance if not pruned back occasionally to keep them under control. The vines should not be permitted to climb trees or shrubs as they have the ability to choke them out. Bittersweet occasionally may be infested with euonymus scale, but otherwise it has few insect or disease pests.
All vines need a fertile and well-drained soil to grow in, and, because a climber is expected to put out extensive growth, it is important that you provide it with nutrients. Add compost, peat, or composted manure with a little bonemeal to the planting hole. Apart from improving the soil your vine has been planted in, wait until the plant has settled in and is showing strong new growth before fertilizing.
When choosing a “clinging” vine take into consideration the hard task of prying the stems loose should removing them become desirable or necessary. More than likely bits of root or disc will be left on the structure surface which can be a real chore to remove.
Clinging vines should never be used on the walls of frame buildings. Their method of climbing has a tendency to damage wood since they cling so closely to the wall. Moisture is likely to collect under them and cause the wood to rot. They can also force fine wood structures apart by pushing their way into the joints. They are best used on brick or masonry walls.
Unlike vines, climbing roses have no tendrils or grippers with which to attach themselves to any kind of support, It is therefore up to the gardener to train the woody, horizontally growing shoots around the trellis or arbor, usually with the help of twine. Make sure the ties are slack to prevent the growing stems from choking to death.