Vines and the Vertical Garden

The vertical garden is an essential element of any landscape, as it is those arbors, fence lines, pergolas and bare walls that catch the eye immediately, so what we choose to grow on them is as important as the structures themselves. With this in mind, I thought I would provide you with a brief overview of vines and climbing shrubs to help inspire and guide you towards the best choices for your garden.

Climbing Hydrangea & Schizophragma – Both these deciduous vines are closely related and feature either white or pale pink blooms that much resemble a lacecap hydrangea in form. Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris is the more common climbing hydrangea, but the gold variegated form ‘Miranda’ is well worth looking for. In a similar vein, Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’ features fantastic pewter foliage with green veining, while ‘Roseum’ offers pale pink bloom bracts. Both species are useful in partial shade and cling with aerial roots.

Hydrangea petiolaris 'Miranda', Schizophragma 'Moonlight', Schizophragma hydrangeoides

Virginia Creeper & Boston Ivy – Parthenocissus quinquefolia (five-leaved) and tricuspidata (three lobes) are the most common species available. They both feature deep green foliage that shifts to dramatic shades of red to burgundy in autumn, often revealing blue berries after leaf drop. These sun-loving vines are capable of clinging to masonry or cement walls with rounded holdfasts, although be warned that they will leave a mark when removed, particularly on wood siding. ‘Veitchii’ (smaller foliage) is the most common cultivar of Boston Ivy, while var. englemannii (smaller leaflets) is a comparable Virginia Creeper variety.

The harder to find Parthenocissus henryana features prominent white veining that shows well in the fall but at zone 6, it is not as hardy as Virginia Creeper (Z3) or Boston Ivy (Z4).

Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Parthenocissus henryana

Ornamental Kiwi – Most of us are familiar with Arctic Beauty Kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta) with its unusual pink-white variegated foliage (which is more prominent on male plants) and with both sexes present, small edible fruits are definitely a possibility. The much rarer Actinidia polygama or Silver Vine features tapered green leaves that develop white tips as they mature and is as attractive to felines as catnip. Both species thrive in partial shade exposures.

Actinidia kolomikta, Actinidia polygama

Trumpet Vine – Campsis radicans and grandiflora have the vigour of Wisteria but with a much later blooming season, usually mid to late summer here in coastal BC. There are a number of colour options including gold (‘Flava’), salmon (x tagliabuana ‘Madame Galen’), orange (‘Indian Summer’) and reddish-orange (‘Atropurpurea’, ‘Flamenco’). The trumpet-like flowers held in terminal clusters definitely attract hummingbirds but be warned, root suckers are rather common.

Campsis 'Flava', Campsis 'Flamenco'

Honeysuckle – With so many Honeysuckles to choose from, which one do you pick? I think fragrance is a great starting point and Woodbine (Lonicera periclymenum) is one of the best; both Early Dutch (‘Belgica’) and Late Dutch (‘Serotina’) feature purplish-red and yellow blooms with a heady scent, while the hybrid ‘Honey Baby’ has a compact (6’) growth habit. The Japanese Honeysuckles (L. japonica) are equally fragrant with their yellowish-white flowers and semi-evergreen nature, your best choice here is definitely ‘Halliana’. Lonicera henryi is a reliably evergreen species with thin tapered leaves and smaller blooms, but at USDA zone 5 it is hardier than Evergreen Clematis (C. armandii). Less fragrant but still quite attractive to hummingbirds are ‘Mandarin’, ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ and ‘Gold Flame’, which has some scent.

Lonicera 'Belgica', Lonicera 'Halliana'

Jasminum 'Fiona Sunrise'

Jasmine & Trachelospermum – Jasmine is the common name for dozens of species but the one most people are looking for is Common Jasmine or Jasminum officinale; a semi-evergreen vine with pinnate foliage and potently fragrant white blooms (used to make Jasmine tea) borne throughout the summer. A gold-leaved form, ‘Fiona Sunrise’, is also available. Pink Jasmine (Jasminum x stephanense) bears pale blooms with some fragrance and is hardier than the aforementioned species. Alas, Winter Jasmine (J. nudiflorum) while stunning with its yellow late winter blooms, has no fragrance whatsoever. Lastly, I’d like to mention Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) which is a vigorous evergreen shrub that can be trained as a vine and features pendulous clusters of highly scented white blooms from late spring into early summer.

Jasminum officinale for tea.

Passiflora incarnata

Passion Flowers – There are only two species of hardy Passion Flowers for us to choose from; those being the semi-evergreen Blue Crown (Passiflora caerulea) and the herbaceous Maypop (P. incarnata), which are USDA zone 7 and 6, respectively. They both feature intricate flowers, with P.caerulea bearing purplish-blue and white blooms and Maypop producing fragrant pinkish-purple flowers with wavy filaments during the summer.

Passiflora caerulea

Climbing Roses – When choosing climbing roses you are usually presented with two options; grafted and own-root. Grafted climbers are always larger initially but own-root provides the assurance that if a cold winter should kill the crown, the growth from the base will still be the rose you purchased, not the rootstock. The best climbing roses for coastal conditions are ‘Westerland’ (apricot blend fading to pink), ‘Dublin Bay’ (red), ‘Goldener Olymp’ (yellow), ‘Antique 89’ (rose-white) and ‘New Dawn’ (shell pink); these also pair well with Clematis.