University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

News Article


Contact: Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Vines, while of great landscape value, often have been ignored in landscape plans because many gardeners fail to realize their potential.

Vines lend themselves admirably to vertical structures found in contemporary and old-fashioned gardens. Vines can partially cover and blend the structure with other plantings.

Certain vines with coarse foliage or dense habit of growth are ideal for fences or arbors. These vines can be used for screening objectionable views, either permanently or temporarily, until other plantings are large enough to achieve the desired effect.

They will give shade and privacy to a porch or break the monotony of a long fence or stone wall. On steep banks or under shade trees where grass can be grown only with difficulty, certain vines make fine ground covers. In areas where space is very limited and high shrubs would require too much room, they can be used instead of shrubbery to achieve the effect of a narrow space divider or barrier.

Before making any selection, carefully consider how the vine will be used. To cover an entire fence with a solid mass of foliage you want a vine with dense foliage. To add pattern and interest to a stone wall without entirely covering it, a slower growing type with interesting leaves would be more desirable.

For a very fast growing, very attractive vine, try hops. Use baling twine to form a trellis as the rough hairs along the vine will need something to cling to as the plant grows. However, try to avoid bare skin contact to prevent a rash.

Vines are divided into three types according to their method of climbing--tendrils, twining, or clinging. The kind of support to be provided will largely determine the type of vine selected.

The grape is probably the best known of the vines that climb by means of tendrils although it is not reliably hardy in much of the far north, such as much of Vermont. Tendrils are slim, flexible shoots or, in some cases, leaf-like parts that act as tendrils. They quickly wrap themselves around anything they come in contact with to support the vine for further growth.

The twining vines, such as honeysuckle, climb by winding their stems around any available support. These two types--twining and tendrils--are suited to climbing on wires, trellises, or arbors but can be grown on flat surfaces if proper supports are provided for them.

The climbing vines are better adapted to climbing on even, vertical surfaces. These fall into two types. One, such as the Japanese creeper (Parthenocissus tricuspidata), climbs by means of tendrils with disk-like adhesive tips that attach themselves firmly to any surface, even glass.

The other type climbs by means of small aerial roots at intervals along the stems. These dig into the crevices of any rough-textured surface, such as brick, and cling tightly. When allowed to trail on the ground or climb in the joints of a dry-laid stone wall, they will root and form new plants.

Clinging vines look nice on brick buildings, but keep in mind that the vines can damage masonry and mortar. It's also a good idea not to grow them along the walls of frame buildings as their method of climbing might damage the wood of the structure. They cling so closely to the wall that dampness is likely to collect under them and rot the wood.

If, however, vines seem desirable in certain cases, the trellis on which they are trained should be far enough from the siding to allow air to circulate freely behind the vine. The trellis should be removable so that it may be laid flat on the ground to permit painting or cleaning of the siding without damaging the vine.

Supports are essential in growing vines and must be sturdily constructed of durable materials. It's discouraging to see a beautiful, healthy vine ruined after several years' growth because the structure on which it is trained has collapsed.

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