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Published: Wednesday, 3/9/2005

Climbing vines take nature to new heights

Climbing vines are a gardener s fabric. They make great window treatments and elegant swags draped from the corner of a pergola

or from the edge of a window box. But unlike a home decorator s fabric, this cloth keeps growing and growing.

English ivy, Hedera helix, Silverlace vine, Polygonum aubertii, Climbing hydrangea, Hydrangea anomala, grape, Vitis, Porcelain

berry, Ampelopis brevipedunculata, and Chinese Wisteria, Wisteria sinensis are great climbers. Morning glory and many climbing

roses would make a beautiful wall of flowers and foliage, too.

Raise your hand if you have clematis in your garden.

Clematis is a very popular vine and usually easy to grow. Prune any new vine down to the lowest buds the first year in late winter. Most varieties will just keep bursting out the top of the vine year after year without any pruning. But if you want it to look more like fabric and not

a head of crazy clown hair, you need to do a bit of constructive surgery.

Think about when it blooms. Clematis are broken down into three groups based on blooming time.

Group one, like Clematis tangutica and C. tibetana vernayl, C. texensis, C. viticella, and other large flowered hybrids like Jackmanii and Perle d Azur should be pruned right now before they get started.

They flower on the old wood. Look at the base of that tangled mess for the largest blossom buds at that base and cut them back

just above those strong buds. The next group needs to be pruned right after they flower in the spring. Clematis alpina, C. macropetala,

and vigorous growers like C. montana need to be cut back in the late spring or summer at the laterals that have two or three buds. Now

this sounds simple, but it s like trying to untangle a wild ball of string.

Some gardeners think it s easier to use hedge trimmers to sheer off

the ends after it blooms.

The last group flowers on old wood and new wood.

Lasurstern, Nelly Moser, the President, and Vyvyan Pennell

are in this group. These usually have big flowers, double blooms or bloom twice in a season.

In mid to late winter, cut about half of the main stems down to the lowest blossom.

This will make the lower part of the plant wake up and create blossoms. In the middle of the summer, after it blooms the first time, cut about one-quarter of the stems to about 12 inches from the ground. This cycle of pruning will keep your foliar fabric in great shape.

Give these vines a strong structure to grasp but keep four to six inches away from a building. This space will give the plant good air circulation and keep it off the building to avoid damage.

If the vine won t stay put, strap the vine to the trellis with yarn, twist-ties, or old nylon stockings. After a little coaxing, they will start

climbing on their own.

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