Plants of the clematis genus, pictured here, are one of the many vines that Aiello suggests as an addition to your garden.

by Anthony Aiello

As you are working on your garden this spring and deciding what to plant, why not consider a vine? Growing vines is one of the best ways to add dimension to your garden.

Vines can be used for a multitude of purposes – as screens, to soften hardscape, conceal structures, provide lushness, and most importantly, to add vertical flowering interest on arbors or trellises.

There are a variety of forms and flower colors with vines, and because their growth is mostly upward, their presence in the garden adds a spatial and seasonal element, often in locations where there is not enough room to use other plants.

The idea of growing vines has often received a bad reputation because of some aggressive non-natives such as English ivy (Hedera helix) and wisteria (Wisteria floribunda and W. sinensis). But with the proper selection of native or well-behaved non-native vines, you can add a new level of interest to your garden. A few to consider are:

• Campsis radicans “Jersey Peach” – Jersey Peach trumpetcreeper

This variety of native trumpetcreeper bears the long-tubular flowers characteristic of this species, but features flowers that are pale peach-yellow, instead of the familiar orange-red of the species. Set against a rich backdrop of dark green foliage, this plant is quite striking when in bloom. Trumpetcreepers need sun for best flowering, and are very vigorous growers best used in large-scale situations with strong supports. Their striking flowers attract hummingbirds and a variety of insects.

• Bignonia capreolata “Dragon Lady”- Dragon Lady cross vine

PHS Gold Medal Award Winner

Native to the southeastern U.S, Dragon Lady cross vine is an exceptional evergreen vine, with dark green leaves that turn purple in winter. It grows by climbing tendrils and adhesive rootlets making it adaptable to a variety of climbing situations. Cross vine has attractive red trumpet-shaped flowers in June and July that also attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Dragon Lady is very hardy in the Delaware Valley, and more floriferous than the species. It is adaptable to a variety of sites, preferring at least a half-day of sun.

• Wisteria frutescens “Amethyst Falls” – Amethyst Falls American wisteria

PHS Gold Medal Award Winner

While there are native wisterias, this variety is an excellent alternative to its aggressive Asian cousins. Slightly fragrant, lavender-blue 5” flowers cover this twining vine in May and June with recurring blooms through August. Tough and adaptable, it is suitable for a variety of landscapes, including small suburban or urban gardens. It grows well on a trellis or arbor, over fences, and in containers. This variety grows to about 15” and is best planted in full or part sun.

• Gelsemium sempervirens “Margarita” – Margarita Carolina Jessamine

PHS Gold Medal Award Winner

This vine is native to the southeastern U.S. and into Texas. Carolina jessamine is normally not cold hardy, but this variety is well suited for our area, providing a profuse display of clear yellow trumpet flowers in late spring, with semi-evergreen foliage throughout the winter. This is a twining vine that can be used in any number of situations, including as a groundcover, on fences or other garden ornaments, or simply climbing up a stout shrub or tree. The result is a mass of color and wonderful texture throughout the year.

When discussing vines, of course it is hard not to mention at least a few clematis that make great additions to any garden. These are not native, but are generally better behaved than the familiar sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora).

• Clematis “Roguchi “ – Roguchi clematis

Arguably one of the finest bell-shaped clematis ever introduced, this plant blooms from May through September. Roguchi is a hybrid of C. integrifolia × durandii and is covered with two-inch cobalt blue flowers. You do not need to worry about pruning: it grows to 4-6”, but as a perennial, it will die to the ground each season. Roguchi prefers sun and performs best when it can clamber over a small trellis or fence.

• Clematis montana var. rubra – Pink anemone clematis

This clematis is a vigorous Chinese species that is an excellent choice for covering chain-link fences or arbors. It has small (2”) lightly fragrant, rosy-red flowers in late spring and will ultimately grow to 20-30”. It a fine garden plant that is reliably floriferous. You can find it at the Morris Arboretum growing well along the Pennock Garden trellis.

Most of the vines mentioned above can be found at local garden centers. So this year, think vertically, and consider how to incorporate some of these great vines into your garden.

Anthony Aiello is the Gayle E. Maloney Director of Horticulture and curator of the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania