Harvesting grapes from a pear tree last summer reminded me why it is so important to control the grape vines this year. Without proper confinement to the fence below, the grape vines had climbed into and overwhelmed the pear tree above. This ‘grape tree’ was remarkably productive, but difficult to harvest from.
My colleague in Southern California has no problem grooming the many different vines that adorn arbors, trellises, walls, fences and railings in his garden. I certainly could not let him find out that I was vanquished by my single grapevine, which he refers to as ‘Dago wisteria’. I probably remind him of how important it is to control his vines more often than I am offended by racial slurs.
The trick is to select vines that are appropriate to each particular application. Vines for small, light trellises must be relatively complaisant, like lilac vine, pink jasmine, Carolina jessamine or clematis. Aggressive vines like wisteria, grape (the ‘other’ wisteria) and the larger trumpet vines need hefty trellises or arbors. Brambles and scrambling plants like bougainvillea and climbing roses do not actively climb, so need to be tied or ‘tucked’ into their supports.
Some of the seemingly innocent vines can actually become somewhat aggressive. Mandevillea, potato vine and star jasmine have wiry stems that seem harmless enough, but can eventually tear apart lattice or light trellises. Perennial morning glory and passion vine can be invasive. Trailing nasturtium, morning glory and pole beans are annuals that really are as innocent as they look.
Vines like Boston ivy, Virginia creeper and creeping fig that attach to their supports with roots or discs (modified tendrils) are too destructive for most applications in home gardens. They are fine on unpainted concrete walls, such as retaining walls and sound walls of freeways, but will ruin paint, siding, stucco and shingles. Boston ivy and Virginia creeper produce remarkable fall color, but then defoliate revealing bare stems through winter.
Algerian and the various English ivies are good ground cover plants that will become climbing foliar (without showy blooms) vines if they reach support. Unfortunately, they root into their support like creeping fig does, so have limited practicality. Honeysuckle is an aggressive vine that can also double as a ground cover.
highlight: Hall’s Honeysuckle
The unrefined twining vines of good old fashioned Hall’s (Japanese) honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’, seem to fit in so naturally with lilacs, hydrangeas and bearded iris in grandma’s garden. Grandma may need help controlling it though, since it can climb more than twenty five feet. It is best pruned back to main canes or to the ground annually at the end of winter.
Just as the fragrance of the earlier spring bloomers gets depleted, Hall’s honeysuckle begins to bloom with its own distinct sweet fragrance, attracting bees and hummingbirds. Sporadic bloom continues until autumn. The pale white tubular (and bisymmetrical) flowers fade to pale yellow that is the color of French vanilla ice cream. The simple light green leaves are about two inches long.
Horticulturist, arborist and garden columnist, Tony Tomeo assesses the horticultural correctness of landscapes, and inspects trees of environmental prominence from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Send your comments and questions to email@example.com.