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Editorial

Lawn and Garden



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09/01/2009 - Last month I talked about a few of the best performing hedge and border plants I observed around town this summer. This month I would like to focus on some different vines and ways they have been used in yards I have visited.

I think that having vines growing in a landscape adds a lot by making things look much more lush. Proper placement of vines within your own landscape will make it feel more like a coastal garden and will help it stand out from other yards in your neighborhood. Although vines add a lush, wet look to your yard, they do not require any more water than many of the other plants you are already growing.

Probably the most common, as well as the most versatile vine used around our town is Virginia Creeper. The name "Virginia Creeper" is a common one that actually refers to three plants, Engelman Ivy, Woodbine, and Boston Ivy. All three look very similar and that is why they all ended up sharing the same common name, but each has attributes that make it better suited for certain areas. Knowing which one to use in your situation can make a big difference on how well it performs for you.

Woodbine is by far the fastest grower, and it has the largest individual leaves. It is well suited to climbing on wooden fences, trellises and any other support with open gaps where it can intertwine and grab hold. It can grow in full sun to partial shade, and although it performs better in well-amended soil, it will survive in even the worst of soils. Some of the best uses I have seen for this plant have been when it is used to cover over patios, or pergolas. This plant falls short when it comes to climbing up surfaces such as brick, masonry, or siding because it prefers to hang on to structures by intertwining around them.

If you have an area you would like to cover that is made of one of these materials, and you do not want to hang support wire than Engelman Ivy is the plant for you. It has essentially the same look only with slightly smaller leaves, and it grows about 25% slower than woodbine. The advantage it does have over woodbine is found in its ability to hold on to surfaces that woodbine cannot. Instead of relying mainly on intertwining to hold onto surfaces, it has small, strong tendrils that will grab hold of even the smallest crack or other groove on a surface. This makes it perfect for climbing brick or masonry. In addition it's smaller leaves make it appear much more dense on a surface because more of them can fit into a given area. The best way I have seen to use this plant has been to climb walls, or chimneys without any additional support.

The third species included in the Virginia creeper clan is Boston Ivy. Boston Ivy grows with about the same size leaves as Engelman Ivy and it can hold onto surfaces without intertwining as well. Unfortunately it grows about half as fast as Engelman Ivy, and 75% slower than Woodbine. In addition to it's slow growth it is also less hearty than the other two. You might be asking yourself why I am even bothering writing about Boston Ivy? Its advantage over the others is purely aesthetic. As it grows it begins to develop a deep red tint to its leaves. This tinting is not so striking on each individual leaf, but it makes a huge impression when it is covering an entire area. If you are looking for something different to place in your yard, and patience is a virtue you possess than Boston Ivy would provide you with a look your neighbors would envy.

When I say that Woodbine is a fast grower, I mean fast, this summer I watched new plantings under optimum conditions cover a wall over eight feet high in only about 6-8 weeks. All three are woody perennials, so any coverage they gain this year, will likely be back at the start of next season. This means that they can cover a lot of surface in just a few short seasons. But beware they have been known to overstep their bounds, and can be somewhat hard to get rid of once they are established. I live out on the prairie west of Casper, so I let them go wherever they like in my yard, I figure, the more green the better. Next month I will continue on with vines by going over some flowering types.

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