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ISTOCK Clematis, Vine

Using Climbing Plants in Your Garden

David Yost & Peg Bier, Merrifield Plant Specialists

Elegant, vibrant, cheery, or unique, many people are unaware of the vast number of beautiful flowering vines which can be incorporated into landscapes for a fun twist on standard flowers, shrubs, and landscape features such as fences and pergolas. There are many ways to use climbing flowers in a landscape or garden!

Screens

Allow your climbing plants to screen unsightly views or provide privacy by giving them a trellis to climb in the desired location. Whether it’s your AC unit, an unattractive fence, or even the neighboring town house, climbers can be used as effective tools to replace a not so pleasant view with a beautiful one and create a private space in even the smallest garden.

(Source: Better Homes & Gardens)

Shade

Train your climbing plants over a pergola or arbor to provide shade and create a cool oasis in your garden during the summer months. A number of climbing flowers offer delightful fragrance during parts of the year, some are evergreen, and others are deciduous, so consider which options might work best for you when choosing which vine to grow.

(Source: HGTV)

Decoration or specimen plant

Grow these plants just because you love them! There are many types of structures for your plants to grow over, and some can be trained to grow as trees or shrubs. Plant your climbing flowers in the ground, or in a container on your patio – place a trellis in the container or just let the vines trail.

(Source: Southern Living)

Groundcover

Try planting your vines without a place to climb and watch them spread out over the ground instead. Using vines as groundcover makes an excellent alternative to grass or mulch, and prevents weeds from growing.

Annuals

Black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia)

Try growing cheery Black-eyed Susan in a container, letting the vines spill over the edges, or let it climb on a lattice, a link fence, old tree stump, walls, or even a mailbox. This flower is easily recognizable by its bold orange or yellow flowers with a brown center.

Moonflower Vine

Moonflower vine’s large, elegant white or purple blooms are unique – they open as the sun goes down, providing a show in the gardens of people who enjoy spending time outside in the evening. Consider pairing with morning glories in a garden bed or container for blooms in both the day time and at night.

Morning Glory

True to their name, morning glory’s flowers open in a fantastic display with the morning sun. The trumpet shaped blooms of morning glory come in a variety of colors including pink, purple-blue, magenta or white.

Scarlet Runner Bean

Scarlet Runner Bean’s clusters of vibrant red blooms make this plant a showstopper from July through October. As a bonus, the beans are edible and can be lightly steamed, salted, or dried.

Perennials

Clematis

Clematis comes in an array of bloom colors and bloom seasons. Grow these flexible climbers over a trellis, try using them as groundcover or pair them with another climber. They will easily thread their way up the branches of a climbing rose or other plant!

Woody Vines

Bignonia

Also known as crossvine, this native vine features showy trumpet shaped flowers in shades of orange and red. These spring bloomers easily cling to fences, walls and trees and are known to attract hummingbirds.

Honeysuckle

A popular plant among people and pollinators alike, honeysuckle is known for its fragrance, sweet nectar and bright tubular flowers. This plant comes in many varieties and several are native!

Roses

While not technically a vine, climbing roses can be trained to climb and sprawl out across nearly any garden structure, providing beauty and fragrance. This iconic flower makes a great addition to arbors, pergolas, or trellises in any garden.

Climbing Hydrangea

Climbing hydrangeas have fragrant, lacy white flowers and bright green foliage. Consider using climbing hydrangea as a screening plant to replace unsightly views with their lovely foliage and blooms.

ISTOCK, Hummingbird, Cardinal Flower

Attract Hummingbirds to Your Backyard

Terry Hershberger, Merrifield Plant Specialist

Every spring I look forward to the arrival of hummingbirds in my garden. These agile birds use their wings (which beat between 70 to 200 times per second) to hover in place, fly backwards, and even fly upside down! Not only are these amazing creatures fun to watch, they also make excellent pollinators, visiting as many as 1,000 to 2,000 flowers each day to make up for the energy they expend performing their aerial acrobatics. Here in Virginia we most often see the Ruby Throated Hummingbird. The males in this breed are instantly recognizable by their bright red throats.

You can easily create a sanctuary for these incredible birds at your own home with bright flowers, a supplemental nectar feeder and a hummingbird friendly water source.

Bright Flowers

Catch the eye of local hummingbirds with brightly colored flowers. Some sources say that hummingbirds are particularly attracted to red, I find that the color does not matter as much as the sugar content of the flower’s nectar (ideally 10 to 11%). Tubular or elongated flowers are best suited to the shape of hummingbird tongue, which folds to form a straw. I plant a variety of flowering plants to attract birds throughout the spring and summer.

Perennials

Bee balm: Blooming in mid to late summer, beebalm’s tubular flowers make the perfect addition to a hummingbird garden. Try the Jacob’s Cline variety for a native plant option.

Native cardinal flower: Due to the shape of this vibrant red flower, most insects are not able to feed from this plant, making it the perfect option for people seeking to attract hummingbirds but keep away other critters.

Annuals and Bulbs

Gladiolus: These showy bulbs produce tall spikes of flowers in an array of vibrant colors. Plant these bulbs after the danger of frost has passed in spring and you can expect flowers in the summer.

Gartenmeister fuchsia: This plant grows in full or partial shade and is an excellent addition to any hummingbird garden with orange, tubular flowers.

Vines

Honeysuckle: Grow this flowering vine on a fence or trellis for blooms that you can enjoy during spring and summer.

Trumpet vine: The yellow, orange, or red flowers of the trumpet vine make it a cheerful addition to a hummingbird garden! These vines grow very quickly and will need pruning. Blooms from summer to fall.

Supplemental Food Source

Hummingbirds need to eat every 10 to 15 minutes, every day to sustain their energy. They supplement their diets with food from a nectar feeder. Hang one at your home to provide them with an extra food source. You can purchase food for the feeder or make your own.

To make your own hummingbird food, boil four parts water and mix in one part white granulated cane sugar. Do not use brown sugar or honey as they can both harm the birds. It is very important to clean the feeder with hot water or a vinegar solution at least once per week as the sugar can ferment and spoil. If the weather is particularly hot, consider cleaning the feeder every 3 to 4 days to keep any visitors safe. Hang your feeder in the shade to preserve the sugar solution. Hummingbirds will continue to visit your feeder until they migrate south in the fall. You can take your feeder down in the middle of September if you are concerned that it might be causing any birds to linger too long.

If you need to protect your feeder from uninvited guests like ants and bees, try using ant guard or Tanglefoot Insect Barrier to protect the feeder by applying it in a small strip where the hummingbirds do not land. The base of the shepherd’s hook where your feeder hangs is a good locations. Consider adding bee guards if bees start snacking at the feeder, as a bee sting can cause serious harm to a tiny hummingbird.

Water

A bird bath is not the best option for hummingbirds since most are too deep. A drip fountain or misting device is a great alternative that they can easily access. You can also run a sprinkler in your yard, and the birds will fly through it to catch the water droplets.