Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Five Annual Vines

I really like annual vines. I use them to dress up the bars on the basement window, decorate a trellis, and festoon my twiggy teepee. I grow them for scent and color. They add a little sparkle to the staid background of perennials and shrubs. Annual vines are the accessories of the garden world; they can be mixed with your basics to create a new look with no commitment. Presented here, is a review of the five common annual vines I grew from seed this year.

Sweet Peas. I had a little trouble getting the seeds going. Those I direct sowed did poorly. For successful germination, I soaked the seeds overnight and then sowed them in containers. Once they had a few true leaves, I transplanted them around the base of the teepee. The twiggy structure was too coarse for the pea’s tendrils to grasp, so I had to tie them to the branches with strips of pantyhose. As I was anxiously awaiting my first sniff of sweet pea perfume, the vines seemed to grow oh-so-slowly. By June, they had reached about 2.5 feet and began blooming. The scent was absolutely as promised and the bright colors were a bonus. Although I did not deadhead, and I’ve read that sweet peas have a horror of hot, humid summers, they furiously bloomed until late August. The vines died with the last of the flowers in September. I collected plenty of seeds for next year. I will definitely grow sweet peas again for those three months of incredible blooms.

Black-Eyed Susan Vine. I grew a variety of black-eyed susan vine last year (Blushing Susie) and was underwhelmed. The flowers were small and sparse. This year, I planted the species and it was much more vigorous. I had success with both direct sowing and starting seeds in containers. I direct sowed some seeds along the wire fence on the NE side of our front yard. With only four hours of direct sunlight and no care from me, they did very well. The cheerful flowers both climbed the fence and scrambled along as a groundcover. I also grew a few plants on the teepee. Although they grew to greater heights and had more sun than the flowers along the fence, they did not flower as profusely. I’ve seen this vine absolutely smothered in flowers in other places in the city, so I believe there is some culture trick that I’m missing. I may try growing BES vine through my butterfly bushes next year, so that the golden yellow flowers contrast with the plum plumes.

Cardinal Vine. Although they don’t look it, cardinal vine is a close relative to morning glory (both in the genus Ipomoea, along with sweet potatoes and moon flower). I was seduced by the seed packet’s bright red flowers and the promise of attracting hummingbirds. The seeds are germinated just like morning glory: nick the seed coat and soak in water overnight. Again, I had more success with growing the seedlings in a container and transplanting than direct sowing. (I suspect that my clay soil is slow to warm up in the spring.) I grew the vine in a container (climbing a trellis) and up the teepee. I liked the foliage more than the flowers. The leaves have a graceful, feathery appearance. I think they would mix nicely if woven into a coarser-leaved shrub. The flowers were a gorgeous scarlet, but very small and not numerous enough to make an impact. Like morning glories, the flowers faded by late morning. I never saw a hummingbird feed from this vine. (They seemed to prefer the sweet peas.) If I grow this again, I will try growing it through a shrub or mixed with other vines.

Morning Glory. This is the second year that I’ve grown these annoyingly reseeding plants. I wised up and grew a single specimen, in a pot, surrounded by concrete in the basement stairwell (aka the pit of despair). The vine’s purpose was to camouflage the bars on the basement window. It did a nice job and produced pretty blossoms to boot. The plant also proved itself quite tolerant of drought, as I often forgot to water it. I will use it in exactly the same manner next year, but maybe I’ll give it a bigger pot.

Moon Flower. I had a difficult time getting my seeds to germinate. Direct sowing was an absolute failure. When sown in a container, I had only a 50% success rate. Of the two resulting vines, I planted one on the SW side of the front porch and the other on the SW side of the back deck. Both vines grew well with little care. I’ve read online that the wait for flowers from this vine can be long. I wondered if I’d have any at all, since my seeds didn’t even get going until May. On the last day of September, my first flower opened. I missed the actual event by what must have been only minutes, as I spotted the flower in early evening. This is another flower I had grew purely for scent, so I eagerly bent my head over the bloom and sniffed, expecting the heady perfume described by others. Unfortunately, I found the scent very faint, but pleasant. (At least it didn’t smell like Mexican food.) I probably should have sniffed again at midnight, when I suppose its pollinators were abroad, but I didn’t try again until morning, with the same disappointing result. I’ll try the sniff test with the next flower, and I also intend to catch it in the opening act. I am undecided on whether I’ll plant this vine again next year. Without a captivating scent, the plant unfortunately reminds me of another morning glory relative, bindweed (not in the genus Ipomoea, but in the same family).

Overall, I love annual vines. They are usually inexpensive and colorful. I’ll continue to grow them because I’m the type of girl who loves to pile on scarves and dangly earrings. Any suggestions for next season’s garden accessories?

12 Comments:

Blogger amanda said...

I also had trouble with direct sowing sweet peas. I did soak them overnight, but unfortunately I wasted all my seeds on direct sowing, and by the time I realized that they weren't coming up, it was too late to get more. I thought that I was a failure, but it is probably as you described, the cool location that I selected for the sweet peas along our ugly shared fence line.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Nadja and Sean said...

Thanks for the vine tips... I've mostly a perennial girl (and gardener newbie, for the most part.) We've got chain-link fence that I really want to try to have some vines on next year. I think I'm going to try Sweet Peas and Moonflowers (so gorgeous!)

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Annie said...

Hi Kasmira,
I have one suggestion which did great for me and was a color similar to the cardinal vine - scarlet runner bean. I think it's a pole bean, i trained it up the porch posts with some twine to get it started - but lots of flowers. A bonus is the bean seeds are a fantastic purple color. I soaked them til they opened, put them in the ground and ignored them. There's also a 2 color white and scarlet flowers i saw at my local coop. I should go pull some beans :)
I'd be happy to trade or send some seeds if you're interested. You can find contact info in my houseblogs profile, i think.
I also have a creeping "moon lily" aka "sacred datura" - and the scent was out of this world, citrus-y and sweet. It's not a vine, but for me is a very low cover, never growing more than 12 inches off the ground with an amazing spread. The flowers are approx. 6 inches long, primarily face downward and do stay open during the day. I'm nearly positive this is it:
http://www.plantoftheweek.org/week090.shtml
It's not picky - it was planeted late and mowed over twice but still bloomed. Because it's tropical, i may dig it up and bring it in to get some seeds, but always worry about my critters eating it since it's so toxic.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

In our area, moonflowers wait till the end of the season, but they'll hold on till the first hard frost, producing more and more blooms.

I found that wasps looove to get drunk and sedated off the moonvine sap.

My own flowers were always strongest at late-afternoon/night, when the new ones first open. If you plant your vine in a spot that gets shade in the late afternoon, it will bloom earlier in the day.

I've grown them successfully for almost a 20 years, but haven't had any luck growing them here in this house (we've been here for 4 years, I tried to grow them 3 years), and I strongly suspect the clay in our soil is part of the problem.
I was going to 'redo' a spot, just dig out all the native soil and put in rich compost soil, pop the seed over there after a soak-n-nick, and see what happens!

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Sandy said...

I tried the black eyed susan vine, with no luck, but do morning glories every year. My mom in Oklahoma told me yesterday that the cardinal vine she has is swamped with hummingbirds. She sent me seeds, and I grew a vine last year, but didn't this year. Guess I will try that again. Never done sweet peas.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous rachel said...

I was also seduced by the pretty picture on the package of cardinal vine seeds. I direct sowed, and they did grow pretty vigorously, but they took forever to bloom, and as you said, the blooms are short-lived. As soon as the temperature dropped last month, the vines started to brown and die back from the bottom up, so now it looks pretty tacky. Hummingbirds ignored it, as far as I could tell.

I have the best luck with the black-eyed susan vine in a partly shady spot. Too much sun seems to make it wither away.

I think I'm going to give the sweet pea another try next year, but will do as you did and start them rather than bother with direct sowing.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

I like annual vines, too Kasmira, but have had different results in TX. I grow something very close to your Cardinal vine, called Cypress vine, Ipomoea quamoclit. Down here, it reseeds all over the place, so you pull up the ones you don't want, and if they're growing where you like them, you let them grow. Some of mine are right outside the breakfast room window so I can see the hummingbirds.

My moonvines did well, and I always grow Dolichos lablab, the Hyacinth bean, but haven't tried sweet peas at this house. If they need pantyhose to grow well, they're out of luck!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

3:25 PM  
Blogger Citizen Grim said...

Our moonflower vine has been growing rapidly for the past 1.5 months, but has only been blooming for 2 weeks or so. However, in the past 2 days, the wasps seem to have found it - I can barely go out the back door.

It's a nice vine, but attracting wasps is somewhat of a deal-breaker. I'm not sure whether to cut it down now, or what.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe what you have a photo of here is actually a red-flowering cypress vine, not a cardinal climber. They are similar, but cardinal climber has broader, Hand-shaped leaves with slightly larger red tubular flowers, and the hummngbirds do like it.

5:28 AM  
Blogger ندوة said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Adi said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My girlfriend bought a small cardinal vine in the local garden center. She planted 1 in a container filled with Dallas Red lantana. Its been there now for a couple of months and has now taken over and blooming profusely. It is climbing all over the place and it is very beautinful.I have been planting moonflowers for many years. This year I notice the plants are coming up(from previous summer.

3:50 PM  

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