Vines As Garden Accents

By Thomas Fryd

Walls and fences of all dimensions are erected for any of many reasons - to define property boundaries, to create a center of privacy, to connect two areas or levels, even to break up small areas and make gardens seem larger. Fences can be used in place of trees and shrubs as background for a flower border, with spectacular vines as accent or subdued varieties for subordinate effect. And, of course, there's nothing like a good-looking fence or wall to obscure unattractive outbuildings, or necessary atrocities like the compost heap.

For fences and walls, again, vines are selected according to available sunlight, moisture, and other cultural considerations - and then according to decorative purpose. If the fence is in itself decorative, the vine should enhance, not smother it. Avoid rampant-growing types and choose, instead, restrained vines with delicacy and charm, and those that can be pruned and trained to shape. For ugly or tottering fences, select a fast, thick covering vine.

On low dividing or retaining walls, let the vine run along the top and tumble down the side - a climbing rose kept trimmed to one cane is extremely effective. Or select a slow creeper, like euonymous, and let it climb the side. Over old country stone walls, native vines - like the native clematis - are in harmony. A brick wall enclosing a formal garden calls for treillage. On small areas, use short-stemmed vines; for large areas, plant long-stemmed scramblers.

Vines as Ground Covers

Many vining or trailing plants will cover banks and keep soil from washing away; or will spread and carpet the ground in shady and other difficult areas. And vines are often the least costly and fastest growing plants for these purposes. But they should be used with caution and kept under control. Some types become serious garden pests. Most efficient for fixing sliding soil and covering steep or rocky banks are the varieties that hug closest to the ground and root at the leaf joints as they spread. Some annual vines can be used as ground covers for quick but temporary effect.

Vines as Garden Accents

These vines are selected for their specimen value - their brilliant, breath-taking flower display, even if only once a year. They are grown on pillars or other uprights in the border, or carefully trained against a background fence or wall.

Accents attract attention to the garden area and to themselves. They should be used sparingly and with regard for their fitness in their surroundings. Selected and placed without plan and design, they can be monstrosities. One accent vine - or two at the most - is plenty for a small or informal garden. A row of pillars can be used in larger, formal landscapes.

Pillars and posts should be in pleasing scale with their surroundings and the vines that cover them. Nonvigorous vines are most appropriate and easiest to control. There are climbing roses, for example, of restrained or "pillar" height; large-flowering clematis and mandevilla trellis plant can be combined with them to prolong the flowering season.

Properly placed and proportioned tree trunks can also be decorated with accent vines. On living trees, however, twiners may circle and strangle branches. Root-clingers are usually harmless and add interest to tall, unbranched trunks. If it has not been treated with creosote, an unsightly telephone pole becomes less offensive with a softening vine.

The majority of garden vines can be used as accent or specimen, if the selection is made with discretion and if careful attention is given to training and pruning. - 29857

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