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Vines offer shade, privacy

January 31, 2001|By KEITH MAYBERRY, Vegetable crop adviser, University of California-Imperial County Cooperative Extension

Vines provide useful shade for desert dwellers. A vine may be trained on an arbor to provide shade for a patio or carport. A vine on the side of a house will provide shade to a wall, keeping the temperature inside cooler. In addition, vines offer wind protection and cut glare. Vines can be used to create dividers, to make privacy screens and, in some cases, to keep out intruders (thorns or dense foliage).

Vines often are grouped into four categories. Twining vines produce stems that wrap around any kind of support. They continue to extend as far as the supporting structure will allow. Tendril climbing vines have special structures similar to a monkey's tail that will wrap around any kind of support. Tendril and twining vines are good for fences, trellises, wire fences and even pipes or posts. They will not grow without support structures on walls. Self-climbing vines will attach to masonry including stucco, stone or brick. They attach by means of special tendrils that have adhesive properties. Non-climbing shrubs include plants that produce long branches that can be trained to cover a wall, fence or lattice. They often have thorns that assist in keeping the branches in place just as spurs help a cowboy ride a bull.

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The rosa de montaƱa or coral vine (Antigonon leptopus) is a tendril climber that is fast-growing vine that takes full sun and high heat. The plant dies back in the winter but quickly recovers in the spring. It produces a mass of heart-shaped leaves and long sprays of pink or white flowers occur in late summer and early fall. Coral vines are commonly used on chain link fences, but they do well anywhere where they are supported. The vines should be cut back in late winter to encourage new growth.

Bougainvilleas (Bougainvillea sp.) are well-known for the magnificent displays of brilliant-colored leaf bracts that surround small yellow inconspicuous flowers. Colors of rich deep magenta, purple, red, yellow, orange or white are available. Bougainvilleas are non-climbers but can be trained easily to grow on a trellis or arbor. They even do well in large containers that allow the long branches to flow over in every direction. They take full sun and high heat for producing a good color display. This makes them an excellent choice for a south facing wall. They are difficult to plant as the soil falls easily from the roots. And bougainvilleas do not transplant well.

Lady Bank's rose (Rosa banksiae) is a tall-growing, slender-stemmed rose that can be fastened to a wall, fence or trellis. A showy display of white or pale yellow double flowers is produced in the spring. This is a good plant for a location with morning sun and some afternoon shade.

A single rose can quickly cover an area 8 feet or more across on a fence or up to 20 feet when given lots of room. There is a tendency to show iron chlorosis (foliage yellowing) if overwatered. Regular applications of iron chelate help alleviate the condition.

Cape honeysuckle (Tecomeria capensis) is a nonclimbing shrub that produces stout limbs that can be trained on a fence or support to look like a vine. The foliage is a dark glossy green and the flowers are tubular in shape and orange-red in color. The plant is a favorite of hummingbirds. Place cape honeysuckle with a southern exposure but partial shade. The shrubs do not do well on the north side of a solid fence or the north side of a house.

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a large-growing deciduous vine that produces clinging tendrils. The vine is a fast grower and will make a dense cover that produces the feeling of a woodland setting. Flowers are inconspicuous, but the plant produces blue fruits that attract birds. Virginia creepers are native to Texas, Mexico and the northeastern U.S. Use the vines on fences, trellises or masonry walls. Plant in partial shade for best results although the plant will tolerate full sun.

Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) produces twining stems that can be trained to grow on poles, arbors, fences, walls, and trellises to produce a woodsy effect. Leaves are glossy green and flowers are trumpet shaped and yellow. The flowering period in late winter to early spring produces color when most other perennial plants do not. With time, the vine will grow up to twenty feet in an irregular billowy fashion. The major disadvantage of the plant is that all parts are poisonous and therefore it may not be a wise choice for some families with kids or animals.

There are many other vines that can be used in our area. Some others to consider are wintercreeper Euonymus, star jasmine and several other jasmines, Hall's honeysuckle, passion vine, grape, cat's claw, cape plumbago, and queen's wreath. The attributes of these and other vines will be the subject of a future column.

If you wish to present a topic for the Desert Gardener to discuss in a column, contact us at our email site desertgardener@hotmail.com or write to us at 1050 E. Holton Road, Holtville CA 92250.

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