DALY: Vines add beauty and versatility to the home landscape

When choosing plants for their gardens, many people frequently overlook the many attributes of vines. They are some of the most versatile and beautiful plants.

Vines can be grown on fences, walls, arbors and other structures. Their rapid growth can provide privacy screens in a relatively short period of time when used on trellises and fences. Some vines also serve as ground covers. Most require minimal maintenance after becoming established.

Vines are trailing or climbing plants with long stems. Some naturally climb and cling while others need to be trained to follow a supporting wire, pole, trellis or other similar structures. Most vines will become a mass of foliage on the ground unless given proper support.

Vines climb objects by tendrils, twining or by clinging. Tendrils, such as those on grapevines, are slim, leafless stems on the vines that wrap around anything they come into contact. Those that climb by twining, such as honeysuckle and wisteria, have stems that wind around support structures as they grow. Clinging vines climb by attaching small root-like structures to surfaces for support. English ivy is an example.

Many vines are prized for their colorful, showy flowers. Clematis vines come in many varieties and are frequently observed climbing on mailboxes. Both Carolina jessamine and crossvines flower in the spring. They have evergreen foliage and are native to Georgia. Confederate jasmine has fragrant white flowers in the spring, leathery green foliage and is frequently used as a ground cover.

Other vines are grown for their attractive foliage. Virginia creeper grows vigorously and has foliage that turns bright red in the fall. Boston ivy has glossy green leaves that are shaped like a maple leaf. Its leaves also become brilliant in autumn. Five leaf akebia has evergreen foliage with oval-shaped leaflets in clusters of five. Some varieties are variegated. Creeping fig is a slow-growing vine with thick, small leaves. It is frequently found growing up the side of brick or stone walls.

Some vines produce flowers that are attractive to hummingbirds. Trumpet creeper is a vigorous growing vine with red to orange tubular-shaped flowers. Cypress vines are annuals with small red flowers and feathery foliage. Trumpet honeysuckle has red to orange flowers. They are not as aggressive or invasive as Japanese honeysuckle. Plant some of these vines if you want to draw hummingbirds to your garden.

Be aware that certain vines grow aggressively and can easily overtake everything in their path. English ivy and wisteria are prime examples. They can smother trees and make them more susceptible to being blown over in windstorms. Avoid planting them unless you plan on continual pruning to keep them under control.

Vines are a definite asset to any landscape. They have attractive features and are easy to grow. No landscape would be complete without them.

Timothy Daly, MS, is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with Gwinnett County Extension. He can be contacted at 678-377-4010 or timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.