The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

The Versatility of Perennial Vines

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright said "a physician may bury his mistakes, but an architect can only plant a vine." Perhaps you have a few mistakes to hide or you just want to cover a downspout, a tree stump, an arbor or shade a deck. Perennial vines may be just what the doctor ordered.

Goldflame Honeysuckle, Lonicera x heckrottii, is one of my favorites. The pink flower buds open to reveal a center of creamy yellow starting in March and sporadically until winter. The flowers are slightly fragrant and the hummingbirds love them. This year mine is also housing a cardinal's nest in the first story and a robin's nest in the second story. Goldflame honeysuckle is essentially evergreen, actually everbluish-green. It is the first plant to show growth in the spring and the leaves stay on the vine until it gets below 20 degrees. I have never seen it form berries like its invasive cousins. It grows 10 to 20 feet so is quite usable across a fence, over an arbor and on a trellis. It will grow in shade, but the flowers are not as abundant.

Trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, is a North American native also with bluish-green leaves. The flowers are not fragrant, but quite vibrant in April. 'Magnifica' has large bright red flowers with yellowish centers. 'Alabama Scarlet' is darker red then 'Magnifica' and flowers throughout the season. 'Sulphurea' also called 'Flava' has beautiful pure yellow flowers with bright green leaves and is quite a sight in flower. Trumpet honeysuckle can grow 10 to 20 feet or higher depending on the structure. Trumpet honeysuckle should be pruned after flowering since it blooms predominantly on old growth.

Stay away from Japanese honeysuckle. Literally stay away from Japanese honeysuckle, or it may twine around your feet and pull you into a dark weedy abyss. This rampant thug is illegal to cultivate in Illinois with good reason. It has invaded many miles of woodlands choking out everything in sight. It is sometimes listed as Hall's Honeysuckle.

Trumpetcreeper or trumpet vine, Campsis radicans, can be a great perennial vine if you have really big mistakes to hide. It grows fast and far at 40 feet or more. If that wasn't enough to prove its virility, it also sends up root suckers for "miles" around. The tubular orange flowers are lovely from June to September. Trumpetcreeper requires regular pruning to keep it in bounds. It flowers on new growth so it can be severely pruned in spring to a few buds. Trumpetcreeper is not for the faint of heart and is best left to very difficult areas where nothing else will grow. 'Flava' is a nice yellow flowered form.

Climbing Hydrangea, Hydrangea anomala petiolaris, is not as well known as its shrubby cousins but it exceeds them in beauty. Climbing hydrangea has four-season appeal. The leaves are a dark lustrous green with magnificent white clusters of sweet fragrant flowers in late June to early July. Fall color is bright yellow. The aging vines develop cinnamon colored peeling bark that is lovely in winter. Climbing hydrangea is slow to establish. It needs moist, well-drained and fertile soil in sun or shade. The effect is excellent as it grows on brick or stone walls, arbors, or into mature trees. It will need ample support. It does not twine but clings with rootlike holdfasts. Find a spot for this plant.

University of Illinois Master Gardeners Garden Walk will be held Sunday June 18 from 10 am–5 pm. Visit eight lovely gardens in Champaign and Urbana, each with something unique to offer. Tickets are $8 or $10 on walk day. Tickets may be purchased at the Extension office at 801 North Country Fair in Champaign or at most local garden centers.

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