Bring versatility with vines

Bring versatility with vines

Vines can reach places, but cannot grow with sufficient and proper support. Choose the right  construction, support and material, says Surabhi Johri.

A friend of mine lives on a high rise at such height that when she sits in her living room looking outside her balcony railings she sees mushrooming concrete jungle. Each time she wishes to hide these buildings from her line of sight so that all that meets her eye be a green screen and the uninterrupted blue sky above it. So in pursuit of this beautiful vision, she tried several vines to cover the balcony railings but none would start taking a hold, let alone develop a screen. She wondered when vines can reach anywhere, why can’t any of hers begin to serve the purpose.

The fact is though vines can reach places, not all can be grown on all types of support. Different vines have different mechanisms of holding on the support. Some throw out sticky roots, while others need constant tying. Some need strong pergolas while others may twine around the smallest of the support. Few even grow claw like hooks and climb on rough walls, while others look best hanging. Many grow rampant and need really strong supports, while others will never grow beyond a corner display.

Vines will serve your purpose easily and beautifully if the location and provided support matches the growing habit of the vine. These versatile soldiers of plant kingdom serve umpteen requirements. These may enhance architecture or hide eyesores, frame views or cascade down bare walls. Work as privacy screens, cover arbors and pergola, clad walls, cover fences, adorn corners, hang down from baskets, trail down the walls, cover bare ground or stand as handsome showpieces. But for every purpose the choice will depend on the type of mechanism these fellows deploy to hold on the support. Vine and support have to fit.

Commonly, Ivy and Climbing Fig stick to walls surface by growing aerial roots. These self adhesive types need rough flat surface to hold and therefore work great as wall cladding. Such vines take long to give a significant effect. Therefore, they should be planted keeping long term in mind. The common money plant, monstera and philodendron, flourish with such support.  Maintenance wise pay attention that roots stay on hard surface because wood will slowly give away under chemicals released from roots. Keep these out of drainage channels so that water retention does not happen.

It is important to keep these neatly trimmed especially around doors and windows to avoid your building acquiring a ghostly appearance. Keep a watch where the cladding is growing because roots growing into cracks and painted surfaces will eventually lead to some damage.

For screening purposes the chosen vine should either grow by twining around support or should grow tendrils – appendages that twine around. The listed choices give gorgeous flowers too. Clematis – white, purple; Jacquemontia – light blue; Antigonon leptopus – pink; Wisteria – purple, white; Grapes and Passion flower - red, purple; Morning glory – blue, white, pink, purple; Shankhpushpi – blue; Moon flower – white; Sweet pea – pink, white; Aristolochia - burgundy, Black eyed susan – yellow; Jasmine – white; Thunbergia grandiflora – blue and T. mysorensis – yellow brown. If you wish to produce from vines then go for Cucurbits - a gourd family of vegetables and beans. For superfast screening along with purple flowers, grow railway creeper. A cascade of green can be created by Vernonia.

T. grandiflora, T. mysorensis , Wisteria and Grapes look best when grown on overhead structures because these have hanging flowers and fruit which look best hanging down and are good choices for shading. Al fresco dinning and such overheads go together. Other vines suit vertical screening purposes better because these stay dense and flowering can be appreciated better vertically. Such screens not only give privacy but may also serve as backdrop to your other plants. Provide trellis, fences, or wires to train these. Not to forget strong construction and material is must to support because eventually considerable weight will build up. Some vines including Jasmine are reluctant twiners and need training, specially in the early phase.

For shading, other choices can be Campsis radicans – orange; Begnonia sp. – yellow, purple; Tecoma – orange red; Petrea volubilis – purple blue and Rangoon creeper - pink. All these are vigorous growers. Campsis and Rangoon creeper must be kept in check because these may become invasive by sprouting root buds. Arbors, pergolas, porches and gazebos are good places to utilise these. Young stem twines and grows around available support and turns woody as it ages therefore building a lot of weight. Outdoor seating areas and car parks find great use of these vines. One vine that needs special mention is the Elephant creeper. It is the most fast growing vine I have seen with huge velvety leaves and a few purple flowers but if you are in hurry to get shade then this is it, but you must give it serious support.

Bougainvilla and Climbing roses form spines to clamber up and do need tying on the support, especially until these have not built sufficient branching network to anchor themselves. If grown vertically provide strong trellis or arch. Use these to frame views and windows. These as well as Lonicera serve as groundcovers too because these can ramble on ground to provide several inches of ground cover.

Gelsimium – yellow; Allamanda – yellow; Mandevilla – white, red and large flowered clematis- red, pink, purple can become showpieces. Supported with trellis, poles or simply hanging down, these look good as specimen vines. Clerodendrum can very well clamber up bare trunks and also provide mass of red and pink flowers.

English ivy, sweet potato vine and Vinca major hang gracefully mixed with other plants in hanging or standalone pots. Vines are space efficient, low maintenance, least investment way to create aesthetic green facades on buildings. My friend finally found her screening answer in Malabar Spinach. Planted in a large pot, this purple stemmed vine has started twining itself around balcony rails without any assistance. And she gets to enjoy its edible leaves too.

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