Site Specific: Native Vines

Find out what’s growing in your region and how to care for it.

A rambling old silver-gray fence in my backyard is home to a tangle of Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens, Zones 6 to 10 ). I’m not a big fan of yellow in the garden, but this plant’s lemon-colored blooming clusters perfectly offset the blues and silver-green foliage of my garden as well as other perennials and annuals.

Gelsemium flowers in spring but will rebloom through summer into early fall if you give it extra water but don’t deadhead it. The plant prefers amended clay or loam, but it tolerates sandy soil, as long as it gets even moisture.

Gelsemium will blossom in part shade and can stretch to 20 feet long by the end of the growing season, so give it good support, and cut it back if it gets too leggy. You can use Gelsemium as a groundcover; keep it pruned to about 3 feet high. — Stephanie Hainsfurther, Albuquerque, NM

around the garden

  • Plant tough flowering perennials like yarrow and hummingbird mint to enliven the garden in the dog days of summer.
  • Deadhead spent flowers to help plants retain energy and rebloom.
  • Feed double-blooming irises and other come-again plants.

sources: Almost Eden Plants, Merryville, LA; Sooner Plant Farm, Park Hill, OK.

pacific northwest
Two western native vines, orange honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa, Zones 5 to 9) and California Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia californica, Zones 8 to 10), make charming statements in any style of garden, whether scrambling up a tree or along a fence or trellis. Both grow best in part shade to full sun, and, once established, they need no supplemental water. Prune both as needed in fall or winter, cutting stems back to reduce the size of the vine.

Orange honeysuckle grows up to 18 feet long. The leaves grow in pairs along the stem, but some are fused to make it look as if the stem pierces the leaf disc. Clusters of narrowly tubular orange flowers that appear just above a leaf attract hummingbirds; birds eat the red berries that follow.

California Dutchman’s pipe is a more rambunctious grower and reaches more than 20 feet. In late winter and early spring, 1-inch flowers appear, white with purple stripes and shaped like pipes. Seedpods look like little bladders. Because the flowers don’t have an appealing fragrance, plant the vine at a respectable distance from your patio or sidewalk. — Marty Wingate, Seattle, WA

around the garden

  • Prune Japanese maples: When the tree is in leaf, it’s easier to see how cuts will affect the shape.
  • Prune watersprouts off of plum trees.
  • Put your tomatoes under a tent, a plastic covering with open sides, to prevent late blight caused by rain.

sources: Honeysuckle, California Flora Nursery, Fulton, CA; Inside Passage, Port Townsend, WA (seeds); California Dutchman’s pipe, Bay Natives, San Francisco, CA; Las Pilitas Nursery, Santa Margarita, CA.

You and the hummingbirds will enjoy trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens, Zones 3 to 8), a vigorous and beautiful native vine. The blue-green leaves make a nice backdrop for tubular flowers that vary from orange-red to orange-yellow. The first flush of flowers appears early in the season and is followed by sporadic bloom throughout the year.

Grow this twining vine over an arbor or along a fence, or allow it to crawl over boulders or across the ground as a striking ground cover. Plant in full sun for best blooms and fewer problems with powdery mildew and leaf spot. The vine will tolerate shade, but it won’t produce as many flowers and may have more disease problems.

Prune new and established plantings to encourage flowering, establish a framework, and stimulate new growth at the base. Renovate overgrown plants by pruning stems back to 2 feet above the ground. Thin new growth as needed. — Melinda Myers, Milwaukee, WI

around the garden

  • Monitor plants for insect and disease problems. It’s much easier to pluck a few insects or disease-infested leaves than control large pest populations.
  • Harvest vegetables at their peak for the best flavor, nutritional value, and productivity.

sources: Gardens in the Wood of Grassy Creek, Crumpler, NC; Shooting Star Nursery, Georgetown, KY.

Wild grapes are an important food source for songbirds, bears, foxes, and other wildlife. In the Northeast, the most common is the riverbank grape (Vitis riparia, Zones 2 to 9). Because it’s vigorous, long-lived, and hardy to -50 degrees F, it’s been used as rootstock for developing many of today’s cold-hardy grape varieties.

The riverbank grape can be found growing along fence rows, roadsides, forest clearings, and abandoned fields, often climbing 40 feet or more into the canopies of trees. In late August, I search out the blue-black fruit for use in jellies and juices—though tart, they’re intensely flavorful. Be careful about eating them raw, however: The fruit contains a mild acid (used to make cream of tartar) that can irritate the inside of your mouth. To avoid this, either cook the grapes [KL: OK?] or refrigerate fresh juice for 24 to 48 hours before using; the tartrate settles to the bottom and can be discarded.

Wild grapes can be propagated from cuttings or purchased from specialty nurseries. Give them a sunny spot with good drainage and plenty of room to ramble. — Kathleen LaLiberte, Richmond, VT

around the garden
Plant a mid-season crop of carrots, beets, kale, and broccoli for a bounty of high-quality produce in September and October. Start the seeds under shade netting to keep the soil moist and relatively cool, which improves germination.

sources: Cold Stream Farm, Free Soil, MI; Forestfarm, Williams, OR.

Trumpet creeper vine (Campsis radicans, Zones 4 to 9), with its clusters of orange tubular flowers that hummingbirds love, thrives in the rocky, compacted soil near my driveway where little else will grow. After its first season, this tough native needs no supplemental water or fertilizer. I grow the orange-flowered native strain, but yellow-blooming ‘Flava’ is easier to work with in floral color schemes.

Gardeners are often aggravated by trumpet creeper’s runners, which sprout in unwanted places, but I’ve found that growing it pillar-style , on sturdy 4-foot posts, helps keep it in bounds. In spring, pull up unwanted sprouts (wear gloves, because some people have allergic reactions to the sap.)

Trumpet creeper can run 20 feet or more, but I prune mine annually to no more than 5 feet tall. Never neglect winter pruning, which is required to keep trumpet creeper vines the size you prefer. You can be ruthless, because trumpet creeper blooms on new growth. Over time, well-disciplined trumpet creeper vines develop curved woody trunks that add to their off-season eye appeal. — Barbara Pleasant, Floyd, VA

around the garden

  • To grow an abundant crop of fall broccoli or cabbage, start seeds indoors and set out the seedlings while the weather is still hot.
  • Plan ahead for easy fall color by sowing dwarf marigolds in a nursery bed. Marigolds started in midsummer bloom longer and stronger than fall mums.
  • Top-dress reblooming roses and daylilies with a balanced organic fertilizer; then add 2 inches of mulch.

sources: Lazy S’s Farm Nursery, Barboursville, VA; Sunlight Gardens, Andersonville, TN.