By Steve Smith
Anyone who has followed me knows that one of my mantras is “There is always room for one more plant”. No matter how packed my garden is, on any given day I can find a little patch that is just screaming for something to be planted in it.
My wife often refers to me as her “hortiholic with a planting addiction.” But regardless of how many bare patches of dirt I find, there just never seems to be enough space. This is where climbers help feed my passion. There are tree trunks, arbors, trellises, fences and sometimes just a lone 4-by-4 post that are begging to be shrouded with something green and alive.
Climbing roses, wisteria, honeysuckle, trumpet vines, clematis and so many other wonderful climbing plants make it so our gardens can expand exponentially.
Climbing plants come in several forms: from annuals – like sweet peas, scarlet runners, nasturtiums and morning glories that grow and bloom in one season and then have to be replanted the next – to perennial vines, like hops that can grow 30 feet in one season but then freeze back to the ground only to return just as vigorous the next spring. Woody vines – like honeysuckle, trumpet vine and the Godzilla of all woody vines, wisteria – will retain a branching system all winter long and over time can become quite a considerable mass of vegetation. Most woody vines are deciduous and will lose their leaves in winter, but there are a few evergreens that Northwest gardeners can enjoy, such as Clematis Armandii, Akebia, Hydrangea seemannii, Holboellia and if you are lucky enough to have a protected spot, star jasmine. For ideas on how to incorporate climbers into your yard, consider touring my garden next to the nursery. On the north side, in total shade, is a ground cover called Euonymus fortunei “Kewensis” that I have let climb up my chimney. It has formed a green carpet of tiny leaves, and I trim it close to the bricks twice a year. Peeking through it are two large colorful wire dragonflies that add a bit of whimsy. Several years ago I planted an evergreen hydrangea at the base of a large Kwanzan flowering cherry on the Northwest corner of my house, thinking it would slowly grow up the trunk. In 10 years it has clamored 20 feet up the tree and is now reaching out to all the upper limbs. In another five years, if I don’t do some pruning, it will smoother the cherry tree. Next week I will extoll the virtues of some of the other vines in my garden, but in the meantime look around your garden and see if you can find a spot to add a climber.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org