Garden Clippings: Trellis Plants

Tips for choosing a climbing plant.

| August 2005

My dad is hooked on gardening, even if he won't admit it. Almost yearly, I hear him say that he's going to turn the vegetable garden back to grass after the long summer has taken its toll on the crops. Each spring, as the fescue lawn is growing at its peak, he'll say he's going to let some of the yard go because he's tired of mowing it, yet if nothing else gets done in the fall, he's sure to apply fertilizer for that early spring green-up.

Recently, Dad made a new trellis for the planting bed in the back yard. He put three small, steel wagon wheels vertically on a post, and put it in the perennial bed. His question for me was what he should plant on it.

I never really thought about it, but choosing a climbing plant can be difficult to do. I suggested a 'Jackmanii' clematis or a goldflame honeysuckle, which Dad quickly shot down since he already has one of each.

Mentally, I started going through the perennial vines that will grow in our area, trying to come up with the perfect plant for his trellis.

American bittersweet is an outstanding vine that does well in this area. The eye-popping orange and red clusters of fruit that are produced each fall are tremendous. But, because of the large size of the plant, it's probably best reserved for a screen, rather than a 6-foot-tall trellis.

The trumpet vine would be welcome to the garden because of its attraction to hummingbirds, with its bright-orange, tubular flowers. But this vine gets way too big for a garden trellis. The long seedpods that appear after flowering are also very efficient in protecting the seed that volunteers to come up where it isn't wanted.

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