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Vines Are Looking Up In My Garden

wisteria vines

Wisteria chinensis vines

Vines have become more important to me over time. Vines have become more important to me over time. When we built a south facing patio in front of our Heath house in 1990 we also planned a kind of loggia structure that would hold a wisteria vine to shade and cool the patio. to shade and cool the patio. That shade would also alter the quality of light in our living room and even keep that space a little cooler.

            We had to keep our wisteria, Wisteria chinensis, in its pot all summer while we built the structure. This was not the best idea we ever had. However, we did get it in the ground in September. In the spring the plant greened up and put out a few new shoots, but it did not climb and twine up the loggia support. Over the years our friends gave us all kinds of advice. Some said we needed to beat the plant. Some said we needed to give it more water. Others said we needed to stop watering it. Some said more fertilizer. No bit of advice had any affect.

             In 1999 my husband swatted the low and languid wisteria vines swearing that if the plant did not grow and bloom in 2000, he was pulling it out. So threatened, the wisteria complied, and we did have several years of lovely, fragrant and lush bloom.

            Not everyone will have the same problems we did. Chinese wisteria is a beautiful and vigorous vine. It comes into bloom before the foliage appears in late May and into June. The drooping purple racemes are graceful and fragrant. However, the vine can be invasive. We did not have baby wisteria growing up all around the garden, but I did have to keep cutting back new vines that grew up from the root. What I did learn is that wisteria often takes a long time to bloom, loves the sun and good well drained soil.

            Because Chinese wisteria can be invasive, some people have chosen the better behaved American wisteria, Wisteria frutescens. The flowers are smaller and less graceful. They bloom after the foliage so they don’t make much of a show and they lack fragrance. There are hard choices to make in the garden world.

            We grew another large vine in Heath. To provide a background for a rose bed next to our shed we planted a kiwi vine. This aggressive vine grew lustily and climbed up the side of the shed on the trellis my husband built.

Kiwi foliage

Kiwi, Actinidia kolomikta, foliage closeup

            I only planted one kiwi, Actinidia kolomikta, because all I wanted was the beautiful green, white and pink foliage. It takes two or three years for the color to develop, but I think it is just lovely. It does need sharp pruning to keep it under control once it gets going. Like the wisteria, it likes sun and a good rich well drained soil.

            If you want kiwi fruits you need a male and a female plant. I can tell you if one of them dies you will never remember whether it was the male or the female, and good luck ordering the appropriate replacement. I’ve heard stories.

Honeysuckle vines

Honeysuckle vines

            In our new garden we have planted trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, to ornament our wooden fence and to attract bees and hummingbirds. Once again my husband built a sturdy trellis for the honeysuckle vines to weave in and around. The honeysuckle immediately began to grow and bloom, never looking back. It has grown and bloomed energetically on the fence that gets shade part of the day. I do some pruning to keep it from going wild, and give it a helping of compost and mulch every spring. 

trumpet vine

Trumpet vine – Campsis radicans

            The trumpet vine, Campsis radicans, is another very energetic vine native to eastern North America. It produces bright red-orange blossoms that are a delight, but it may take several years before it begins to bloom. The vines are not so shy and will begin growing immediately and can grow to 35 feet. It is aerial rootlets that allow it to cling.  These rootlets can damage stone, brick and wood. Do not plant trumpet vines against your house! I have been told that it should be grown near concrete where it can be kept under control because it can make new plants by seed, and by sending out underground runners that may come up in unexpected places. When I was on a garden tour last summer I saw a stunning trumpet vine climbing up a tall tree. The hummingbirds love it.

            Like trumpet vines the climbing hydrangea, Hydrangea anomala petiolaris, clings to its support by aerial roots, so the same warnings apply. It needs a very sturdy wall, and will cling and climb on a tree. The Bridge of Flowers has several climbing hydrangeas, although most of them artfully dangle down over the side of the Bridge. Even from a slight distance the large lace cap flowers are beautiful. Needless to say they do not get any pruning but just continue blooming year after year. It is a slow growing vine so it is necessary to practice patience the first few years after planting.

            The least problematic vine I have in my garden is the Grandpa Ott morning glory. It is the plumy purple exclamation point at the end of my fence. I provide a few strings from the ground to the top of the fence for the Grandpa to climb on; little patience is required before it clambers up the strings and blooms. After an autumnal frost I cut it all back and wait for spring. Then I arrange new strings and wait for new shoots to appear. Grandpa Ott always leaves a few seeds in the soil, so I don’t even need to replant.

           Between the Rows  March 24, 2018

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – October 2014

Thomas Affleck rose

Thomas Affleck rose

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day arrives this October after two hard freezes. The trees are richly adorned adding most of the garden color at this time of the year. The roses are very nearly done, but Thomas Affleck, right near the door, has nearly a dozen blossoms left. In the rest of the garden there are a few scattered rugosa blossoms, and The Fairy is still making a bit of magic.

Sedum 'Neon'

Sedum ‘Neon’

This is the second year for Sedum ‘Neon.” I will have to do some dividing. The Fairy is right behind her, as well as a snapdragon and a foxglove blooming at this odd time of year.

Chrysanthemum 'Starlet'

Chrysanthemum ‘Starlet’

“Starlet’ is a very hardy quilled mum that I keep moving around the garden.

Sheffield daisies

Sheffield daisies

The Sheffield daisies  are just beginning to bloom!  At least I have been calling these Sheffield daisies all year before they came into bloom, and now I am thinking they are some other very vigorous chrysanthemum. I have one clump of ‘mums’ not yet blooming. Maybe that is the Sheffie clump.



This low growing and very spready aster is definitely ‘Woods Blue.’ I just found the label while weeding today.

Montauk daisy

Montauk daisy

I am coming to realize that the Montauk daisy has quite a short bloom period. Maybe it doesn’t deserve to be so front and center.

Autumn crocus

Autumn crocus

A flower that does deserve to be more front and center is the Autumn Crocus. It is invisible in August when it should be transplants. Out of sight. Out of mind. Maybe next August.

'Limelight' hydrangea

‘Limelight’ hydrangea

The ‘Limelight’ hydrangea has had a good year and is doing better than ‘Pinky Winky’ planted at the same time, and the native oakleaf hydrangea. The enormous ‘Mothlight’ is also still blooming.

Lonicera sempervirens

Lonicera sempervirens

I am going to have to do something about this honeysuckle. She has grown enough this first full year and deserves to be arranged so she is more easily admired.



This annual potted Cuphea has given me a lot of pleasure this summer. Endless bloom.



I plant these nasturtiums on the slope between the Daylily Bank and a bed of the Early garden right in front of the house. Such a cheerful flowers.

Love Lies Bleeding

Love Lies Bleeding

And finally, in a knocked down tangle is Love Lies Bleeding. A right bloody mess. I expected long drooping tails of blossoms, but this looks like ropes of chenille balls.

What is blooming in your garden this Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day?  Check Carol at May Dreams Gardens, our welcoming host.

Dioecious Plants – It Takes Two

Dioecious Plants: Dioecious species have the male and female reproductive structures on separate plants.

Hardy Kiwi Vine

Hardy Kiwi Vine

The Annual Rose Viewing was a success, but it was the hardy kiwi vine on our shed that also got a lot of attention.

Of course, it is the unusual green, white and pink foliage that makes the hardy kiwi so notable. I first saw this vine at the LakewoldGarden in Washington state many years ago. It was growing on a long trellis, so I did not realize how rampantly it could grow. I did not know the artful pruning it was receiving every summer – and winter.

Our hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta) was planted on a trellis attached to our shed. I thought the colorful foliage would be very pretty when the roses in the Shed Bed were not in bloom. This has certainly worked very well. I have been happy that it has grown so vigorously and covers the better part of the shed wall. I have only done the most basic pruning, but this year I have come to realize that I need to take a firmer hand – and get out the ladder.

Since visitors to the garden are familiar with fuzzy kiwis that can be found on supermarket shelves they ask if my kiwi bears fruit. It does not, because kiwis are dioecious plants. This means that you must have a male and a female to get fruit. I was only interested in the unusual foliage so I was happy with one vine. I don’t know its sex.

Hardy Kiwi foliage

Hardy Kiwi foliage

I do have a friend who wanted the fruit which is different from the supermarket variety. Hardy kiwis are as big as a large grape and have a smooth skin that can be eaten. He bought a male and a female vine from a nursery. One of the vines died over the winter, but he couldn’t remember which was which, so he planted another male and female. Again, one vine died, and his list and map were lost, so again he was not sure which vine had survived.  I don’t actually know whether he finally got a male and female, and a fruit crop, but this is a problem with other dioecious plants as well.

I should add a caveat. Without pruning the hardy kiwi can reach a height of 40 feet, and if unattended or abandoned can overwhelm other plants and areas.

Perhaps the most commonly known dioecious shrubs are the hollies, the Ilex family. This includes the kinds of evergreen hollies with the beautiful red berries that are such a part of our Christmas traditions.  I have a single ‘Blue Prince’ and a ‘Blue Princess’ holly, Ilex x meserveae. The male produces the pollen that is needed to fertilize the female’s flowers and so create the beautiful red berries. It only takes one male to fertilize nine females. You do not need to have as many males as females.

These hollies produce tiny white flowers in April and May. They are easy to miss, but not the red berries.  My ‘Blue Prince’ took a beating this past winter, and the ‘Blue Princess’ also showed winter damage, but both are recovering nicely. There were lots of flowers, and even though the ‘Blue Prince’ is much smaller, I am expecting a good showing of berries later this season.

There is also the native deciduous holly, Ilex verticillata, which is more commonly called the winterberry. It also needs male and female plants in order to produce the orange-red berries that appear in the fall and persist through the winter. They tolerate wet soils which makes them an attractive shrub to plant in damp spots in the garden.

In addition to the hardy kiwi vine and the evergreen hollies, I have four ginkgo trees in my garden. We planted these about 16 years ago when our grandsons were hardly more than toddlers. We planted them partly as a memorial to our two years in Beijing. I was afraid they might be slightly too tender, but they are thriving and are even big enough now to throw welcome shade on hot summer afternoons.

Ginkgo biloba trees are used in cities because they are hardy, but the fruit of the female is said to be unpleasantly smelly. I cannot attest to this from my own experience because during our New York city years, and our Beijing years, I never came across ginkgo fruit. It takes at least 30 years for the tree to mature and produce fruit, which means that when my trees drop their fruit smelling of rotten eggs or vomit, I will not be around to suffer.

However, it seems to me that 30 years or more of a beautiful, hardy, disease resistant tree is better than those years without the tree even if it ultimately has got be cut down. Or at least the females have to be cut down.

The ginkgo is an ancient tree, sometimes called a living fossil, and is known for its unusual fan shaped leaves. They turn a beautiful gold in the fall which tend to fall all at once. We have often gone to bed on an October night, and awakened to find every golden leaf on the ground.

These are the three types of dioecious plants in my garden, but I recently checked a long list of dioecious plants online and found that the stinging nettles among my weeds, Urtica diocia, and the hop vine, Humulus, that is growing in a tangle of grapes and multiflora roses, are also dioecious plants, but they are subjects for another time.

Between the Rows   July 5, 2014

Winterkill – Despair or Hope

Old white lilacs

Old white lilacs

Lilacs seem to know nothing of winterkill. This long harsh winter was as nothing to these ancient lilacs.



The same cannot be said for the wisteria. Winterkill in its most serious form has hit here. There is always a little winterkill, but there should be some sign of life by this time in the spring. No such luck. This might very well be the end of the wisteria as the provider of shade on the piazza.

Thomas Affleck rose in distress

Thomas Affleck rose in distress

The Thomas Affleck rose in front of the house has suffered a major attack of winterkill. I am  going out today to give it a good pruning. I am not in despair over the amount of winterkill among the roses. The rugosas are less susceptible than any of the other roses, but those that do endure winterkill often surprise me with how quickly and lushly they recover. My pruners are sharpened and ready for a major attack on dead or broken branches. Then we will see what June brings.

On this (almost) Wordless Wednesday I can think of nothing more to say on the topic.

My Wisteria – Before and After

My wisteria bloom June 2012

Wisteria is a mysterious plant. I am not good about taking Before and After photographs, but above you can see my wisteria in early May last year.

Wisteria May 28, 2013

This is my wisteria yesterday. My husband and son cut out the main trunk which  was dead, leaving us with a young, lively trunk. There is another shoot coming up from the root that we will allow to  join this trunk.  I am glad it is not totally dead, and hope it will grow lushly and give us cooling summer shade.

I have written about my trials and triumphs before in 2012 when I had a great wisteria bloom season that actually has a photo of the main trunk, and in 2009.

Hardy Kiwi Foliage a Stunner

Hardy Kiwi foliage

The hardy kiwi vine (Actinidia)  is possibly the only plant I ever wanted specifically for its foliage. I first saw it at Lakewold Gardens, a historic estate and gardens near Tacoma, Washington. In that beautiful garden it was growing neatly on a trellis and I was fascinated by the pink, white and green leaves.

It grows exuberantly on our shed next to the hen house and is in need of a serious pruning that will require a good ladder as well as good pruners. I bought mine from Miller Nurseries who promised its hardiness to -25 degrees many years ago. It has not only survived our Heath winters, which are ever milder, but also the depredations of the hens who have turned the Shed Bed into their own Lido, scratching and taking  luxurious dust baths there.

The hardy kiwi will fruit, but you must have a male and a female plant. I only have a single vine because I was not interested in fruit only in the beautiful foliage. I have a friend who bought a male and female, but one died. Unfortunately he forgot which was which so he had to buy two more to be certain of getting the necessary cross pollination. This is a lesson to remember. Sometimes good record keeping can really save you money.

The Best Wisteria Season Ever

My Wisteria

We are enjoying the best wisteria season ever. I don’t know why one year is better than another.



Wisteria - View from the bedroom window

Wisteria at sunset

Wisteria in the morning 5-31

I have chronicalled the history of my wisteria here.  And added a warning here.

For more Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Bloom Day – September 2011

Achillea 'Terra Cotta'

Even after Irene and the following storm that jointly dropped at least 14 inches of rain inside one week the garden is looking pretty good. This yarrow is still putting out blooms even through the foliage of the yellow loosestrife and a huge squash plant in the Front Garden.

These buttery yellow nasturtiums I planted kept washing away in the heavy spring rains but you’d never know how few plants came through. They are making the barrier-transition area between the vegetables in the Front Garden and the Daylily Bank.

Most of the daylilies look like this. They are nearly all gone by except for

Ann Varner

which began blooming early and continues to put out these brilliant blossoms.

Echinacea, Russian sage, pink phlox

Pink seems to be my color. The Russian sage makes a good companion.

'Alma Potchke'

‘Alma Potchke’ is just starting to bloom.

'Hawkeye Belle'

I planted ‘Hawkeye Belle’ last year on the Rose Bank and she is doing so well. This is quite an autumnal flush.

'Thomas Affleck'

‘Thomas Affleck’ has hardly taken a breath since beginning in mid-June. Notice all the deadheading I haven’t done. Other roses in bloom right now are Pink Grootendorst, Double Red Knockout, and Linda Campbell.

These morning  glories are on a bamboo teepee in  the center of the lawn. Surrounding the teepee are three quill chrysanthemums left of six after the bunnies lunched on them this spring, but they are just about to begin blooming. Among the weeds and the black netting that finally protected this whole little garden from the rabbits. Black netting doesn’t allow for much weeding especially if you don’t begin right away and keep it up.

Hooray for annuals in the fall. Down here in the potager I also have China asters and Gomphrena ‘Strawberry Fields’ in addition to the zinnias.

My traditional edging around the rose Shed Bed is this annual salvia. In lieu of the lavender I wish I had.

I keep waiting for Anemone ‘Robustissima’ to take over as I was warned it would do. It is still petite but it seems pretty strong.


I did not undrstand that this hydrangea would get as big as it is – maybe 10 feet.  The ‘Limelight’ and ‘Pinky Winky’ hydrangeas took a beating from the snow and the snowplow over the winter, but they each have a couple of blooms and seem to have recovered.

Of course I have a field of goldenrod and tansy. NEVER plant tansy. And wild yarrows and asters are blooming along my road.

To see what else is blooming across the country, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens who invented the fabulous idea of Bloom Day.

Mist at the End of the Road

Dawn on September 3, 2011

The Cottage Ornee

For more Wordlessness click here.

Record Keeping

This is a close up of the old white lilacs that were on our property when we moved here in 1979. They are the earliest of all the lilacs we have and I can usually count on having them in full bloom by the 15th of May.  Not this year. You can see not all the buds are open. But I only know that because keep this blog means I have pretty good records for the past three years, thanks in large part to Carol of May Dreams Gardens whose meme of Bloom Day has encouraged me to keep a full bloom record at least once a month.

Our weather just seems so unpredictable with blooms varying by as much as two weeks, a week on either side of a standard date. For the past two weeks we’ve had cool temperatures and rain. All bloom slowed down.

This is what my wisteria flowers looked like last year on May 23.

See what the buds look  like this year on May 24.  Calculating bloom times for tours and such is getting very difficult.   Grrrrrr.

Is your garden ‘off schedule’ this year?