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vines for summer & autumn coursework

Vines are workhorses for designers, but they need to be correctly specified and managed to do the work of trees (ceilings) and shrubs (walls).  One of the many hats I wear in my career is as a plan reviewer for both private and public landscape projects.  Vines, like trees, are often poorly specified.  We will get to trees elsewhere.  Vines need to be better understood for their growth rate, methods of climbing, and proper support to successfully incorporate vines into landscape designs.  In the field, I cannot count how many times I have seen rotted or malformed substructures under wisterias, damaged wall finishes behind ivy, or freeway sound walls with fallen Carolina jessamine rolling down like a wave on the ocean.

In brief, there are several modified forms of attachment that vines will utilize to climb anything nearby, including walls, arbors, houses, and trees.  They are as follows:

  • Tendrils: One of the most common form people might think of are tender stems, leaf stems, or leaflets that wrap around a support, such as a cable.  They look like miniature springs and can wrap in either direction.  Example: grape vines (stems).

  • Twining or Wraps: As some vines grow, their stems stretch outward while twisting around a support structure, such as a stake, pole, post, or even a tree.  Twining can be clockwise or counterclockwise and can aid in plant identification, such as the difference between two types of wisterias.

  • Aerial Roots: Some plants support themselves by producing aerial roots along their stems.  These roots need a roughened surface, such as craggy rocks or coarse and porous cement to successfully adhere to a vertical area.  Example: climbing hydrangea.

  • Pads: Tiny adhesive pads that look like suction cups form along stems to stick surprisingly well on wall surfaces.  Ever hear of Ivy League universities?  Some sources suggest that "planting the ivy" was a tradition that top ranking universities would do as they become Ivy League institutions like Princeton and Harvard.  I cannot help but wonder if planting Boston ivy today on garage walls or wine tasting rooms connotes a similar affluence; however, such regard is not very successful when planted in full sun on a freeway sound wall.

  • Assisted Attachment: Some climbing species, such as giant Burmese honeysuckle or climbing roses, produce canes that do not twist or attach on their own.  These plants require a supportive structure that could require string or other tying material to keep limbs and canes in place.

Whichever vines are selected, an adequate support system is required.  Designers will need to analyze mature growth compared to desired growth, attachment method, and supportive structure to succeed with specifying vines.  Heavy vines like wisteria, trumpets, and some roses need substantial structures like pergolas and arbors that are engineered to withstand their weight.  Aerial roots and adhesive pads can severely damage wall surfaces or leave unsightly ghosts of their past existence if removed.  Maintenance, too, can be an issue, when vines grow so fast they enter buildings before gardeners can prune them back.

Few vines can be planted in containers with success, such as annual black-eyed Susan vines or shorter "pillar" roses.  Most vines intend to grow too fast and large for containers.  When this occurs, they become unhappy with their bounded roots and no place to go.  As mentioned before, know their mature sizes, plant in the right place, and use proper support to ensure long-term success.

The following list is fluid, meaning it will change as new information is made available, including new species and status on campus.  We welcome any updates, corrections, or comments to continue to make this page useful to students at West Valley College.

If a scientific name is linked, please feel free to find additional information via this website.

scientific name

Bougainvillea spectabilis

Campsis radicans

Distictis buccinatoria

Hedera algeriensis (H. canariensis)

Hedera helix

Hydrangea anomala petiolaris

Lonicera japonica 'Halliana'

Parthenocissus tricuspidata

Vitis californica 'Roger's Red'

common name

bougainvillea

trumpet creeper

blood-red trumpet vine

Algerian ivy

English ivy

climbing hydrangea

Japanese honeysuckle

Boston ivy

Roger's Red California wild grape

campus location

Cilker: North

 

 

Community Education

 

 

 

 

Cilker: Native Plant Garden; Science and Math; Physical Education

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