When you run out of space, when you want to cover a fence, when you want your cucumbers and gourds to grow straight, when you want to cover something, or you would like to change the way your yard looks, THINK VINES!!!! But be sure and check on the habits of that plant! Some grow so fast and heavy they will bring a weak structure down.  The two most vigorous ones I have had are WISTERIA and TRUMPET VINE. The most questions I have had about WISTERIA is “Why isn’t it blooming?” Usually it is at least five years before it is old enough.  I have cut mine back to the ground several times just to get it under control and it takes about two years before it blooms again.  In the meantime, there are limbs growing in every direction that I trim off. Even the woody stems up about five feet so I can get under it. It needs full sun but does not seem to be fussy about  soil type.

          The TRUMPET VINE also sends out limbs in every direction and I cut them off except where I need it to climb. The blooms are on the ends of the limbs so don’t clip these seemingly wild ends. The woody main stem can get several inches around.  The roots travel in all directions and are the main reason people remove their vine as shoots come up everywhere, especially if you cut it back to the ground to start over.  This stimulates it to begin a new colony.  I have had it go under a sidewalk in several places. Both the humming birds and I love those dramatic orange blossoms.  It too is not fussy about the soil it is in but needs some water to support the vast (!!) amount of leaves.  On a trellis it makes a heavy enough screen for birds to nest in.  It is not fussy about soil and never needs to be sprayed.

          CLIMBING ROSES do not climb and they are not a vine but a rose that sends up tall thin branches that you need to fasten to a structure to hold it in place.  Otherwise it might flop over when it reaches nine feet or so and becomes a ground cover. Most of our climbing roses bloom on old wood so one cannot prune them down in the fall like hybrid tea roses. So pruning is done in spring to remove any dead parts. I do cut my very longest,   wildest canes to the ground after flowering, and new ones appear but won’t bloom until the next year.  The new roses have more blooms all summer but the older ones may bloom only once about June here in Nebraska. The “climbers” require the same care and feeding as the teas and the floribundas.

          Gourds can climb about anything or they are happy spreading along the ground.  The ones on the ground will most likely be rounder or straighter than the hanging ones. My favorite SWAN GOURD caught its neck over the chain link fence and does look like a swan with its long neck.  I have a double coiled SNAKE GOURD whose outer skin developed many spots making it more like a snake than I could have with paint. I just needed to add eyes and paint its tongue (stem) orange. I think both of them will last for many more years. If gourds do not have a long enough season to mature they may rot. If I have to pick them because of a frost, I drill holes underneath and try to remove the seeds to help them dry faster.  The plants need full sun, fertilizer, and plenty of water with good soil drainage.

          One of the most vigorous plants you can find in spring is a sweet potato vine. Especially the chartreuse one (“Marguerite”) which will cover a good amount of territory in one summer. With a little help it can climb.  Put it in a large pot and plan to fertilize and water it well. Marguerite has large yellow-green leaves and sends out numerous runners.  After the first frost I dig it up and usually find at least one huge root and several small ones.  I keep the large one then in early spring I put it in damp sphagnum moss where it will sprout several vines that I can root.  “Blackie” with its very dark leaves does not grow nearly as fast and looks good in container gardens along side plants with lighter green leaves. There is a multicolored one that grows still slower. The tubers can be eaten if you want.

          The CUPS AND SAUCER VINE (Cobaea scandens) from Mexico is another fast grower that won’t grow well until the ground warms up.  In some years I have started it inside but I get the impression it prefers not to be moved.  The seeds are large and can be soaked the night before. It is a good climber with tendrils that wrap around. In a warm summer with enough water and full sun it can grow 25 feet.  There is a white one (“Alba”) but I prefer the purple.  The buds are greenish white before they open with bells about 2 inches across. The name comes from the white-green sepals surrounding the large “bell”.  I am going to start some early inside and be sure it is always in a larger pot so its roots never become entangled.

Copyright 2007

my forsythia and lilac bushes are too large.

when and how do i prune them?


Most spring flowering shrubs like forsythia, lilac, flowering almond, Bridal Wreath spirea, etc. can and should be pruned just after they get done flowering.  You have a three to four week window to prune.  After that they begin setting flower buds for next year and any pruning will be removing next year’s flowers.

The best way to prune these shrubs is to prune out 1/3rd to 1/4th of the biggest oldest canes all the way to the ground.  This will open up the plant and let the bush develop new growth.  In four (4) years you will have a new healthy bush. This pruning is necessary if you want your shrub to bloom throughout the whole plant as the flowers usually come on the ends of the branches.  If you do not prune in time you have flowers just on the top. If you want to shorten or shape your shrub a little more, do this after removing these old canes.

Copyright 2007