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Larry A. Sagers Regional Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved
For additional information on all aspects of gardening read my column in Friday morning's Deseret Morning News.
Finding the perfect plant for the perfect place is not always easy. Size, shape, growing conditions and many other considerations help make the chosen plant suitable for your garden.
If you are looking for a little flexibility in your planting plans, look for (pardon the play on words) flexible plants. Literally, the most flexible plants are the vines. Long before Tarzan swung through the jungle on the hanging vines, vines helped gardeners solve landscape problems.
One reason vines fill a special landscape niche is that they assume many different growth habits. Some creep across the soil as groundcovers, others cling to fences or trellises while others cover arbors or trail over walls. Few plants cover as much space as quickly as vines.
For more specific needs, look for annual vines. These grow from seeds or small transplants each season and some grow rapidly and offer an outstanding show during this season. Some have showy flowers; others make their show from large or colorful leaves. Select them carefully to have an outstanding garden this season.
For convenience, I am grouping vines by their botanical relationships. Keep in mind that some vines that are perennials in warmer climates only grow as annuals in our area.
For show, it is hard to top the Ipomeas. This genus has at least six species of very plants including some with very large attractive flowers. These include the true morning glory, sweet potato vines and several others. None of these have spreading root systems so they are never invasive like the field bindweed we erroneously call morning glory.
Ipomoea alba is also known as moonflower vine. This perennial plant grows as an annual in our gardens. It grows as long as twenty feet in a season and provides some of the quickest annual shade. The heart-shaped leaves grow up to eight inches long, providing very luxuriant foliage.
Among the most interesting aspects are the large flowers that get six-inches across. They get the name moonflowers because they open after sundown, but they do stay open on dark, cloudy days. Use them in gardens that have outdoor lighting for the most interest.
Ipomoea nil is annual morning glory. These are summer annuals and include the common morning glories and several named varieties including the popular ‘Scarlett o’Hara’. The flowers are showy, but not as large as some other species. Morning glory vines get their name because the flowers open every morning and then they close at night and never reopen. Some produce thousands of flowers each season.
Ipomoea tricolor is also called morning glory. The showy funnel shaped flowers are lavender, pink, red, white, bicolored or striped. ‘Heavenly Blue’ is a popular type that grows almost fifteen feet long in a summer.
Last, but not least are the vining vegetables. Pole beans and scarlet runner beans are useful edible-fruited vines with white or red flowers respectively. Hyacinth beans have bright purple flowers and showy purple leaves and pods.
Cucurbits are cucumbers, melons, squashes, gourds, pumpkins. Not only do you get some massive vines, (giant pumpkins might grow fifty-foot tendrils) you also get showy white or yellow flowers. The real bonus is the tasty fruit to eat or in the case of the gourds, some fruit that is showy and occasionally useful. To prevent the large fruits of some of these from falling off the plants, fashion hammock to support their weight.
Peas, snow peas and snap peas are all useful vines and have white or purple flowers. Sweet peas (Lathyrus) are not edible but they have very showy flowers in many different colors. All peas climb with tendrils and this is one annual vine you want to try next spring because they prefer cool weather.
Build an arbor and start enjoying some quick shade, screen off an area for privacy, or add some quick and easy color to your summer garden. Annual vine are wonderful garden performers in many roles that they are called to act in.