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Annual Vines:

Climbing the Walls to an Attractive Garden

By Judy Sedbrook, advanced master gardener with Denver County Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

No garden is complete without the romantic grace of an old-fashioned flowering vine.

Easily grown in flower beds, hanging baskets, window boxes or trellised planters, annual vines can magically transform even the most unattractive areas. Planted alone or in combination, they provide a quick and inexpensive solution to many landscape problems.

Your use of annual vines is limited only by your imagination. With colors as varied as those on a painter's palette, you can create solid or multiple color effects by planting single or multiple species of vines. The color display can be varied every year.

When used as a background for flower gardens, vines add vertical dimension and can extend a garden upward where space is limited. Their enchanting color and texture can break the monotony of a fence or wall.

Grown as a screen around porches, patios or windows, vines provide privacy and cooling shade. Annual vines grow rapidly and can fill in temporarily for slower growing perennial vines.

In the vegetable garden, decorative gourds, lemon cucumbers and some varieties of squash also can be trained as climbing vines.

Most annual vines will not cling to a brick or wooden wall but can be supported on climbing aids. Grid-shaped or vertical supports can be creatively fashioned from sticks, wood, wire, twine or mesh. Green vinyl netting or fencing is particularly valuable for this purpose because it disappears from view.

Here are a few you may want to try:

Black-eyed Susan (2708 bytes) Black-eyed Susan, (thunberegia alata) grows to 7 feet in partial to light shade and moist soil. It has yellow, orange or white flowers with dark centers. Try them in hanging baskets or window boxes.

Cup and Saucer (2700 bytes) Cup and Saucer, (Cobaea scandens) grows 20 feet in semi-shady to sunny locations and moist soil. It bears reddish purple flower cups in green saucers.

Moonflower (2015 bytes) Moonflower, (Ipomoea alba), a fragrant flowering cousin of the morning glory, may reach 20 feet in a growing season. It grows in poor soil and a sunny location. Its large, white flowers open at night and close by mid-day.

Sweet Pea (4972 bytes) Sweet peas, (Lathyrus odoratus) grow from 2 to 7 feet in sunny locations. The fragrant flowers come in shades of white, yellow, pink, lavender, deep purple and bi-colors. They need rich soil that retains moisture.

annvin12.jpg (4177 bytes) Nasturtium, (Tropaeolum) thrives on neglect. It grows to 6 feet with yellow, orange and red flowers in sun to partial shade. Edible flowers add a peppery flavor to salads.

Cardinal Climber (2671 bytes) Cardinal Climber (Ipomoea x multifida) beautiful annual twining vine with vivid crimson trumpet shaped flowers that hummingbirds can't seem to leave alone.

Canary creeper (4115 bytes) Canary creeper, a nasturtium cousin, has bright yellow flowers with splashes of red and climbs 7 to 10 feet in poor soil.

scarlet runner bean (3625 bytes) Scarlet runner bean (Phasaeolus coccineus), may reach 10 to 15 feet when grown in moist soil in sun to semishade. Its red flowers turn into pods that can be shelled for edible beans.

morning glory (2979 bytes) Morning glory (Ipomoea tricolor) produces blue, pink, scarlet or magenta flowers in profusion. They open each morning and fade by evening. Vines climb to 15 feet when grown in full sun and poor but moist soil.

Photographs by Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010