How To Help A Vine Climb A Tree

A trellis framework helps a vine to climb a tree

This picture, taken at Gresgarth Hall in Lancashire shows how a vigorous vine such as a rambling rose or a Clematis montana can be encouraged to grow against a tree.

The soil at the base of a tree is often dry and impoverished. Dig a hole for the plant two feet (60cm) or more away from the trunk of the tree. Mix in a little organic matter such as leaf mould or compost to enrich the soil

If the plant came in a pot, gently tease out the roots over the hole. Mix the soil that falls from the container in with the planting soil too. Plant the rose or vine aiming for the soil level to be about the same as it was in the pot.  Water in well.

Use a sturdy cane ladder to train the plant back towards a lower branch of the tree.  The smaller canes the plant came with can be tied or woven in to the ladder.

As the vine grows, weave the pliable young stems around the cane, tying them in if needed.

If wild animals such as rabbits or deer visit the area and may be tempted to nibble the lower stems of the plant, use chicken wire to protect them.

Passiflora vitifolia: A tropical vine bearing red passion flowers

Bright red passionflower vine growing against a fence

Red passion flowers, blazing joyfully in the early January sunshine during our visit to Florida, looked for all the world like a miracle to my Northern English eyes, tuned in to consider a single early snowdrop a delight.

It’s a bit of a minefield making sure which of the various scarlet red passionflowers you have before you. Passiflora vitifolia gets its name from the vine-shaped foliage. As its folk name is The Perfumed Passionflower you might expect me to have something to report about its fragrance but, not associating passionflowers with fragrance, it didn’t cross my mind to sniff it. It’s a vigorous vine when happy, able to reach 6 m (20 ft) if its surroundings force it to climb to reach sunlight. This smaller one was able to bask in the sunshine along a fence in the Naples Botanical Garden’s Brazilian Garden.

Passion flowers wow us with their intricate forms, even when their colours are relatively drab. This overhead view of a red passion flower could almost be a lesson in botany.

Three red-speckled styles that end in pale stigmas arch elegantly over at the top of the flower. The structure appears to balance on a creamy ovary in the centre, directly below; underneath that, five speckled filaments with green, pollen-bearing anthers attached. The pollen is held underneath – you can just glimpse it on the outer edges. Next, rings of eyelash-style filaments: long, dark red ones, with shorter ones in the middle, designed to make pollinators work hard enough for their nectar to withdraw with pollen on their backs (or heads, in the case of humming birds).

Underneath all that, five true petals, with five outer sepals beneath and between, all ten recurving backwards. My personal take on their colour? It’s the classic British fire engine red, more often described as crimson or scarlet.

Given its vine-like foliage, it would seem apt if this miraculous little plant went on to produce tiny bunches of grapes. Instead the fruits resemble dainty melons that some people describe as tasting like sour strawberries and others say are poisonous. It would be wise not to sample them unless you’re an expert.

Continue reading “Passiflora vitifolia: A tropical vine bearing red passion flowers”

Air Potato Vine Leaves

Green leaves against a blue sky

The air potato vine (Dioscorea bulbifera) is a vigorous plant that can be hard to shift from the garden once it takes over. While it may become a menace, the veined, heart shaped leaves are very decorative backlit against a blue sky. This plant was tumbling over a bottle tree in Jackson, Mississippi.

Clematis florida Viennetta

Clematis florida Viennetta

This clematis was a head-turner of a plant. I felt like one of the paparazzi as I lined up with jostling amateur and professional photographers at a recent flower show for my chance to take its picture.

The attraction? Masses of white flowers with showy, fully double centres in shades of purple and green hanging gracefully from a compact vine. I captured these blooms open, in their best finery, but if you search online, you’ll discover a rather strange assortment of pictures. They’re testimony to the way the flower changes as it opens from a gawky youngster to something much more regal.  Continue reading “Clematis florida Viennetta”