During a cold, overcast day last winter, with a great deal of incentive to remain indoors, I knelt at the bookshelf and picked out a book on garden structures. The book’s colorful pictures of well-kept gazebos, trellises, pergolas and other lawn structures inspired thoughts of what could be added to my landscape when spring and warmer weather arrived. While the work of a gazebo or pergola presents a summer-long project, there are a number of arbors and trellises that are somewhat simple in construction, yet add an immediate, classy impact to the yard. The choices are very imaginative and endless. For those who don’t want a construction challenge, a wonderful selection of kits is available. Whether redwood stained or painted white, garden structures provide new opportunities to showcase landscape plants.
Gardeners in Florida are fortunate to have a variety of plants that do well when provided opportunities to climb. Many of these are tough vines that require only occasional pruning while others need a little TLC if they are to perform optimally. Consider these options:
- Star Jasmine – a prolific plant once established. Will require occasional pruning to keep it in check. Provides fragrant, showy flowers in spring, but can become overwhelming if planted in a confined area such as a courtyard. Needs full sun and is an attractant for hummingbirds.
- Cross vine – fast growing vine, excellent for overhead trellis. Blooms in spring with orange/red trumpet-shaped flowers. Will need pruning yearly and may spread underground into yard areas where it is easily controlled by mowing.
- Dutchman’s Pipe – sports large leaves and a most unusual – and large – purple and white bloom. Prefers partial shade and is a larval food for several species of swallowtail butterflies. This evergreen vine is somewhat tender and may freeze back during harsh winters.
- Creeping Fig – a dense grower, this vine needs no support to climb walls and fences. It has been known to become a maintenance problem on houses, so clearly not a plant to locate near your home or landscape trees. I have seen it used so effectively on styrofoam blocks it soon gave the appearance of a solid block wall.
- Passion Vine – once established, this vine will completely engulf a wire fence line. Larval food for the gulf fritillary and zebra longwing butterflies, it sports a large purple blossom and some varieties produce an edible fruit. Like the cross vine, will spread into turf areas, but is easily controlled by mowing. Susceptible to cold damage but will emerge from roots when warm weather arrives.
- Climbing Old Blush Roses – these bloom heavily in spring and can be trained to trellis along a fence where they provide a most attractive combination of pink bloom and light foliage. Roses have disease issues so choose a rootstock carefully and limit the selection to those known to perform well in Florida’s hot, humid climate.
- Honeysuckle, Coral Honeysuckle – colors are white or red. Coral variety blooms spring through summer. Dark green leaves are an attractive way to hide a wire fence and this plant attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Fruit provides food for birds.
- Blue Sky Vine – This plant produces blue, bell-shaped flowers, about 3 inches wide during the summer. It grows rapidly, providing lush cover for walls and fences. Its growth habit is twining, although it is somewhat succulent, as opposed to a vining appearance. Susceptible to cold, it will re-sprout when warm weather returns in spring.
A trellis provides opportunities to go vertical with your gardening efforts and vines offer an assortment of colors and shapes. Vines give gardeners an excellent opportunity to hide fences while providing a food source for pollinators, hummingbirds and other wildlife. Explore the variety of trellis and arbor features as well as vine selections and add interest to your backyard.
For more information on climbing vines suitable for Florida, please visit: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/MG/MG09700.pdf