University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Anytime News Article
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

 Vines, while of great landscape value, often have been ignored in landscape plans because many gardeners fail to realize their potential. Vines lend themselves admirably to vertical structures found in contemporary and old-fashioned gardens. Vines can partially cover and blend the structure with other plantings.

Certain vines with coarse foliage or dense habit of growth are ideal for fences or arbors. These vines can be used for screening objectionable views, either permanently or temporarily, until other plantings are large enough to achieve the desired effect. They will give shade and privacy to a porch or break the monotony of a long fence or stone wall. A common vine seen screening porches in New England is the Dutchman’s Pipe.

On steep banks or under shade trees where grass can be grown only with difficulty, certain vines such as our native trumpet honeysuckle make fine ground covers. In areas where space is very limited and high shrubs would require too much room, they can be used instead of shrubbery to achieve the effect of a narrow space divider or barrier.

Before making any selection, carefully consider how the vine will be used. To cover an entire fence with a solid mass of foliage you want a vine with dense foliage, such as the hardy kiwi. To add pattern and interest to a stone wall without entirely covering it, a slower growing type with interesting leaves would be more desirable, such as a clematis.
Vines can be grouped into three types according to their method of climbing--tendrils, twining, or clinging. The kind of support you have will largely determine the type of vine selected.  If you already have or desire a particular vine, this will determine its support structure.

The grape is probably the best known of the vines that climb by means of tendrils. Tendrils are slim, flexible shoots or, in some cases, leaf-like parts that act as tendrils. They quickly wrap themselves around anything they come in contact with to support the vine for further growth.

If choosing grapes for the north, make sure and choose hardy cultivars (cultivated varieties) such as ‘Worden’ concord-type grape, or one of the Minnesota hybrids.  While grapes and Virginia creeper climb with stem tendrils (shoots arising opposite a leaf on the stem), peas have leaf tendrils (modified leaves arising opposite a leaf on a stem).

Suitable supports for vines with tendrils include netting, wooden grids (such as you find already made at lumber stores) or arbors, wire mesh, or twine. While twine only lasts a season, it can be cut down and vines easily removed for cleanup in fall.  Clematis have long-leaved tendrils that readily climb on most any stem, trellis, or even other vines including its own. Make sure supports are of a durable materials and strong enough to support the weight of vines.

The twining vines climb by winding their stems around any available support. Look at the vine as it grows to see which direction it wants to grow so you don’t train it in the wrong direction.  No harm will be done if so, except the vine may not stay put, and will have to correct itself.  Most twiners grow counter clockwise around their support, looking down on them, but some such as hops grow clockwise.  Twining vines to consider are the wisteria (generally hardy only to USDA zone 6, although ‘Aunt Dee’ grows in zone 5 and ‘Clara Mack’ in zone 4), fiveleaf akebia, and both hardy and showy kiwi.
Larger supports, twine, or wire are best for twiners so they have something to wrap around.  Hops are unique, and technically not a vine but rather a “bine”, in that they cling by stiff hairs on the stem.  It’s these same hairs that easily cause temporary skin rashes when brushed against.  For these hairs to have something to grasp, you’ll need to use a coarse twine for training (such as baling twine).

The clinging vines are better adapted to climbing on even, vertical surfaces. These fall into two types. One, such as the Boston ivy climbs by means of tendrils with disk-like adhesive tips that attach themselves firmly to any surface.  The other type climbs by means of small aerial roots at intervals along the stems. These dig into the crevices of any rough-textured surface, such as brick or bark, and cling tightly. When allowed to trail on the ground or climb in the joints of a dry-laid stone wall, they may root and form new plants. Examples of root-clinging vines include English ivy, wintercreeper, trumpet creeper, and climbing hydrangea.

If you’d like to grow vines to cover a wall, you’ll need to hang or suspend supports, or erect a trellis a few inches out from the wall.  Leave this space between the vines and structure for air circulation.  This will help prevent disease on the plant and mold on the wall.  If a trellis, it should be movable in case the wall needs repainting or repair. 

Climbing roses may fit the function of a vine, but they don’t really climb.  Instead the long stems “arch”, usually with thorns that help them cling to objects like fences, so may be called “ramblers”.  These not only need strong supports, but also ones in cold climates,or for tender cultivars, that can be lowered to the ground in winter for covering with straw

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