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Suggestions for Climbing Plants

Vines fulfill specific needs and provide surprising beauty by growing vertically. They will grow up on fences, trellises, along walls or other structures, grow up on tree trunks, or even spill over slopes. They bring unexpected beauty in unexpected places with their colorful flowers, fruit, and foliage. Many are beloved by birds and other pollinators. Here are some of my favorite vines that will come back year after year.

If you want to stick with native plants, I highly recommend two beautiful vines. I especially love the coral honeysuckle vine (Lonicera sempervirens) which has several assets. It is not invasive, blooms all summer, and will beckon hummingbirds to its sweet nectar as well as goldfinch and robins which will feast on its fruit. The reddish-orange colored tubular flowers have a mild, sweet fragrance and these plants are continuous bloomers. It will need to grow on a fence or a trellis as it can reach 10-15 feet. Locate your coral honeysuckle vine in a strategic location where you can enjoy watching the hummingbirds that visit. You must find a location with full sun and add some compost when planting it. It will bloom on both old and new wood, so you will need to prune it back for shaping in late fall. My favorite cultivar is `Major Wheeler’ because it flowers profusely from spring through fall. Two other honeysuckles I recommend are the cultivar `John Clayton’ which has gold-colored flowers and a cultivar known as `Blanche Sandman’ which has pink flowers.

Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is incredibly beautiful with its sweetly scented canary-yellow trumpet flowers in early spring. The plant is actually lovely year-round because of the glossy narrow dark green leaves (it is generally evergreen depending on the winter). The plant will often reach 20 feet unless it is cut back. Plant in a location with full sun and a good rich, moist soil. Deer do not eat it but the hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators will be frequent visitors. Please note that the plant is poisonous if ingested by humans. Carolina jessamine is the state flower of South Carolina. The cultivar know as `Margarita’ has larger flowers and tends to be a bit hardier.

For a shade loving vine, try Moonlight hydrangea vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides `Moonlight’), which comes from Japan. It is a plant for the patient gardener as it will take 2 to 3 years to begin vigorous growth and 5 to 7 years to produce flowers. Eventually it will grow into a thick woody root climber and if planted in a tall space will grow 10 to 15 feet tall. The white lace cap hydrangea-like flowers are graceful and elegant against a back drop of silvery green leaves with deep green veining. The leaves are graceful and elegant. If you have seen a Moonlight hydrangea vine at its peak, it is absolutely breathtaking.

Clematis is an enormous group of lovely climbing, herbaceous plants that is so large and complex that they deserve a great deal of written space and explanation. Since now is the time to order and plant them, I recommend one of my favorites and suggest you visit the following nursery web site for ordering and learning about types of clematis and their requirements:

Brushwood Nursery, located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, is a nursery that specializes in clematis, and I have been pleased with their plant quality and selections. Among my favorites is Clematis `Niobe’ with its large, velvety, garnet red flowers, and grows up to 5’-6’ across. It will appear in late spring and summer. The abundant flowers have lovely yellow centers in the middle of its star-shaped flowers. Plants will bloom on old wood from the previous season and  look best grown along a fence, up a trellis, or through and around other plants. Hummingbirds love the flowers of this vigorous clematis.

There is another grouping of excellent vines that are annuals, therefore, only lasting one season In the future, I will cover these vines in another column. Vines will bring welcome surprises to your garden whether growing on a fence, wall or trellis. If you walk around your neighborhood, take notice of some of the vines that are growing happily and healthfully on trellises and walls.


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