Vines in the Garden

Vines do a great deal for the garden: they add vertical interest, cover unsightly
features of the landscape, and offer plenty of benefits to wildlife. Any garden can accommodate a vine: a teepee
of bamboo stakes tied together with twine will work just fine, and I’ve even
stripped the branches off my Christmas tree, put the greenery through the
shredder, and used the trunk as a sturdy support for a climber. There are so many great choices for
California gardeners that all you really have to do is pick something you love
and get started.

 One of the
first options you might consider is the native clematis C. ligusticifolia. While this vine gives Linda and her fellow
Pacific Northwestern gardeners quite a bit of trouble, it’s an appropriate
choice in its native California, where it grows to 20 feet or more, puts out
modest white flowers, tolerates a wide range of sun conditions, and doesn’t
mind drought. The feathery white seed
heads are a familiar site to anyone who goes walking through coastal wilderness
areas in the fall.

berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata) is another interesting choice if you
have room for a good-sized vine and a hefty support for it to climb. This woody climber reaches up to thirty feet
and produces small berries in clusters similar to grapes. They’ll produce more of their striking blue
fruit in sun, but they will tolerate shade as well. A smaller and somewhat less hardy cultivar, ‘Elegans,’ sports
variegated leaves.

 In the vegetable
garden, try scarlet runner beans, which offer up red flowers in spring and
summer for hummingbirds, and long broad beans for your kitchen table. Another cheery vine for a kitchen garden is
black-eyed Susan vine, Thunbergia alata, which produces gorgeous orange
or yellow flowers with a nearly black center.


And in the
flower border, remember climbing roses, which provide shelter and a food source
in the form of rose hips in the fall. I
like the orange ‘Joseph’s Coat,’ a natural climber, but the sentimental
favorite among climbing rose lovers is Cécile Brunner, which sports an
abundance of sweetly-scented pale pink roses.

 Two vines
to avoid: English ivy (Hedera helix)
and morning glory (Ipomoea indica and others). Both are rampant climbers and incredibly invasive. They may cover a slope in no time at all,
but resist the temptation—they’re impossible to remove and ivy in particular
has taken over in coastal forests and other wild areas.