Reach for the Sky! A Guide to Climbing Vines

By Kerry Ann Mendez

Climbing vines direct the eye skyward, adding a third dimension of beauty and interest to a landscape. This is especially effective in small spaces such as patios, decks and entranceways. Flowering vines also make wonderful "wall accessories", privacy and shade screens, as well as cover-ups for eyesores. Fragrant vines deliver an added element of pleasure.

Providing Support

When selecting a climbing vine, it is important to know how it ascends so you can provide the right kind of support. Some vines like Clematis and Black-Eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia) use tendrils - wiry, skinny structures that wrap around a structure. Because tendrils are short, the support should be less than 1/2" in diameter - twine, wire, fish line, narrow wooden slats or branches work well.

Getting Directions

Other climbers such as Wisteria, Honeysuckle and Trumpet Vine wrap their entire stems around a structure. Depending on the species and genetics, the stems can twine either clockwise or counterclockwise. Most flowering vines grow counterclockwise; about 10% grow clockwise. If your vine never successfully climbs a structure and just lies in a heap on the ground, perhaps you're training it in the wrong direction. The mature size and weight of a vine will determine how hefty a supporting structure should be. Wisteria are notorious for toppling weak supports.

Surfaces Make a Difference

Some vines use aerial roots or disc-like adhesive pads to hook on to a support. Climbing Hydrangea and Japanese Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma) fall into this category. These climb best on rough surfaces such as textured wood, bark or masonry.

Vines That Don't Climb

Finally, some vines don't actually climb at all. They need a helping hand from us to head skyward. Climbing Rose and Bougainvillea are examples. These have long stems that need to be tacked into place or tied with twine or string.

Estabrook's offers many colorful flowering vines in each of these categories for a wide range of light conditions. Stop by the store and we will help you pick out the right one for your special spot.

Kerry Ann Mendez KERRY ANN MENDEZ is an award-winning garden educator, author and design consultant based in southern Maine. Her latest book is The Budget-Wise Gardener. You'll now find her at our Kennebunk store consulting on garden design, answering your gardening questions and much more.