Category Archives: Great vines

cheap thrills

2017-02-07 23.13.14As the season goes on ( and boy is it ever a glorious one thanks to Mother Nature being generous with the water works)  each day I stroll around eagerly awaiting to see  what has come into bloom around the next corner. We are in prime summertime; coneflowers, black eyed susans, garden phlox, hydrangeas and many a treasured and sought after plant  ($$$$) are sure strutting their stuff,and while I love to see rare clematis and well grown roses,  if is the cheap thrills that get me the most.

There is such a sense of satisfaction knowing you can create a beautiful landscape on a shoestring budget if you just are a little prepared ahead of time in a few ways.

Fist and foremost buy seeds of things that are easy to both start from seed and save seed from when they are done blooming, things like morning glories, love in a puff vine, hyacinth bean vine, nasturtiums, zinnias, amaranth and cosmos. Dahlia tubers also fall under this heading even though it is a tuber instead of seed you save. It may be a teeny bit of work but worth every bit of  effort in the end when you can fill loads of containers and empty spaces in the garden for next to nothing. Almost all of my annual vines are now started from seed I have saved , initial cost was minimal, and now it is only my time that gets spent as I watch for w week or two and gather the seeds to store over winter.

Nasturtium seeds form quickly as the flowers fade and can be collected as soon as you see them big enough , and before the birds get to them.IMG_2187

Hyacinth bean forms cool electric purple pods and these get left on the vine until brown and then dry and then take the seeds out of the pod and store .DSC_0026

Love in a puff  halicacabum cardiospermum makes these cool puffs after flowering and the seeds are in them, but you can just store the puffs after they are brown

love in a puff

love in a puff

I use little glassine envelopes for all most but not all of my seeds. For things like amaranth and even zinnias you can just pop the whole flower head in a paper lunch bag to deal with later in the winter when you are bored and feel like separating the seeds from all the chaff. Just make sure they are dry before placing them in the bag. With the amaranth a quick vigorous shake of the bag in the spring will send the seeds to the bottom of the bag leaving the rest of the flower stalk intact and  you just take out and pitch  the stalk and pour out the seeds.
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I have several large containers that are filled using many of these saved seeds .the first key to success is a large pot + less watering+ greater germination and survival rates. Because i save way more seed than I could ever use, I sow heavily and then thin out the seedlings them later if necessary .

This pot has a mum and a sedum that live in it year round and then I pop in seeds after all chance of frost has passed. This year it was actually very late as I used hyacinth bean seeds which I never plant outside until June 1. I also add a single dahlia tuber in there and by early July the pot is full and fresh looking and will be flowering within  the month lasting through frost. Someone on my garden tour this June happened to be standing next to me and the pot when it was all just starting to grow , and commented  ”I see what you are doing here, how clever! ”

large pot with dahlia, mum, sedum, hyacinth bean vine

large pot with dahlia, mum, sedum, hyacinth bean vine

2017-02-07 23.15.37Another pot nearby gets morning glories every year and this year I added the hyacinth bean as well.Within a week with this heat (finally!) it will be outrageously full and blooming 2017-02-07 23.16.03

You can read more about my use of annual vines for late season interest here

The two large pots on the pool area are even easier. These are quite large and are made to hold the umbrellas. (you can see what I did here) . They are heavy and I actually never change the soil in them partially because of the cement , but mostly because the petunias that I planted in it  the first year they were made ( probably 6 years ago) seed readily  and come back for free. I will admit it takes time  for the seedlings to get to any reasonable size so the pots initially remained quite empty until the middle of July but then I started planting lettuce seed in them very early in the season, Now I grow lettuce in one of them , harvest lettuce all spring , and just as it is starting to get too warm for the  lettuce, the petunias are of a decent enough size to take over and the lettuce gets ripped out while they carry on until frost.IMG_2382

In the second one I actually get celosia to self seed as well, so i just pop in few seeds of nasturtiums and call it a day. this year the chipmunks planted sunflowers in there and although I do not like the look of it I will let them stay, cut the sunflowers for inside once they are flowering , and then move some of the other plants to fill in the gap. You may notice that the petunia growing in here is one of those “illegal ” orange ones. This is a very long but very interesting story you can read about here if you like in an article titled “How the transgenic petunia carnage of 2017 began”, but suffice it to say that petunias do not contain a gene for expressing the color orange so some wacky engineering was going on for them to exist. I actually bought one plant for  a dollar to tuck in this pot  very late in the season and I was very surprised to see it come back.




variegated nasturtium

variegated nasturtiums


Which brings me to my second way you need to be prepared, and that is learn what seedlings of your favorite annuals look like and be aware when weeding what you are pulling. Lots of annuals leave seeds that will happily overwinter in some years, sometimes they can get annoying  like Morning Glory sprouting all over the place  but many times it is delightful to find free plants to either leave growing  where they sprouted or lift and move elsewhere. This little nasturtium seeded itself here, IMG_2390and every petunia I grow was a self planted seedling.

Any way to save a few dollars helps and makes it so I can splurge on the cool new bulbs I have been eyeing!


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clematis tour

DSC_0079this is a marvelous time for clematis, when the early guys are still trucking along and the late bloomers are just starting, makes for lots of flowers that’s for sure!

Elsa Spaeth is a favorite, in my top ten , and blooms start early and carry on for weeks. Only a handful of clemmies get planted more than once here and she is definitly one. The HUGE flowers, that deep color, the vigor of  the plant, all combine to make perfection.

elsa spaeth

elsa spaeth

Betty Corning s another on my top 10 list.I here back from people I have taught telling me how happy they are to have planted her. She is a show stopper because of the sheer volume of flowers at any one time, disease free foliage and 18 + weeks of bloom. AmazingDSC_0065 DSC_0125

Another vitacella, venosa violacea is just adorable but may get a new home give she is being swamped by other plants where she is

DSC_0113Odoriba is a cross between our natives crispa and viorna. It has cool wide recurving sepals  Delicate to look at, easy to grow.



Catherine Clanwilliam has sure taken it’s time getting going here but after a few year is showing a little more vigor. It is rosy pink throughout  and will twist the tiniest bit after opening

catherine clanwilliam

catherine clanwilliam

a tanguitica called ‘Bill McKenzie is currently blooming way above my head in a tree. It is extremely early this year. the seed heads on this one are fantastic


bill mckenzie

bill mckenzie

purpurea plena elegans is a very diminutive vitacella  that really needs to be grown on it’s own to appreciate. It lives here in a large container in the pool area.

pupurea plena elegans

pupurea plena elegans

Polish Spirit has the stamina and strength of my people. It blooms so long and so hard and the vines themselves are huge. I grow it here up a covered bench and over a gate into rugosa roses AND over my black fence  It is that wonderful!

polish spirit

polish spirit

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etoille violet is another on my top ten list, it is a flowering  machine and can take quite a bit of shade. I grow it into a crabapple tree and up lattice on the north side of the houseDSC_0110 DSC_0084

this guy is clematis triternata rubromarginata  although it is far more dark purple than my other vine of this variety which is more on the reddish side and it has  green in the mid section instead of white.The flowers are very recurved and twisted like a mini-pinwheel.  It is very unusual but an up close and personal plant given it’s small and dark flowers which do not stand out from any distance.DSC_0062 DSC_0064

roguchi is a  reliable long bloomer that does not twine or climb. It’s buds are just as interesting as the opened flowers which are a very deep dramatic purple. Here it grows in a small raised bed under a maple next to and into a yellow foliaged arborvitae.



this one was sold to me as Snow Queen but I am sure it is Hagley Hybrid. It never fades to pale , instead remaining clearly pinky mauve with textured mid-ribs and  those dark anthersDSC_0086

speaking of dark anthers, this is Countess of Wessex  sporting some very dark anthers indeedDSC_0091

on the arbor with her is Huldine who has been in recovery mode for the last two seasons after consecutive rabbit attacks. The flowers are a little smaller than usual but much better than last years. Both grow into a very rambunctious rambling rose.DSC_0095

flueri is a very compact vine bred by Raymond Evision with  very deep dark coloring. This clematis is placed all wrong here, growing under a dark ninebark and barley visible to the world. It is on the to do list to move this next to something variegated and light so it can be seen by all.




These buds  and the one backward facing bloom below are from Burning Love (or Vitiwester’) which is a lovely  deep red  and has the added bonus of being crossed with a vitacella parent so it is disease resistant .


burning love

i am Lady Q is ever so dainty and delicate with a crisp white center and purple-pink edges. This weekend the pop up tent we were using for garden check- in on the tour went flying in the wind and took her obelisk down, but she weathered the storm quite well loosing only one of her vines.

I am Lady Q

I am Lady Q

Normally Dr.Rupell is one of my earliest bloomer, this year it is a bit behind but welcome all the sameDSC_0069

Star River has been performing quite nicely for many weeks now. I must say I do not care for the fading flowers on this one so have been regularly deadheading it.

star river

star river

Rosemoor is another dark beauty . Rosemoor used to grow here on a willow tutuer I made but last year I swapped it out for this white one and now she really pops


Comtesse de Bouchard is another on the top ten list, you will never regret growing this a stalwart plant , easy care, generous bloomer, just a delight

comtesse de bouchard

comtesse de bouchard

Last but not least are two herbaceous clematis. Arabella has been going strong for 4 weeks  , I may start a herbaceous top ten list just so I can add this beauty to it.



C. recta is in full bud and ready to become a froth of bloomDSC_0089

and two that are done blooming for now but showing off some funky see heads













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the best fall garden ever…annual vines

this week we get to some of my favorites plants, annual vines.

Annual vines are three things….cheap, easy, and glorious. For leass than the third of the cost of one perennial plant  you can buy a packet of annual vine seeds and grow many fantastic ground or trellis covering vines. That is quite the bargin.

I grow many  and change them up every year (which is  another great thing about them) but will focus on the ones that add the most to my late season garden

The first is by far the  biggest of the bunch, cobea scandens. Planted by seed this baby will get to at least 20 ft by late summer. It has little sticky tendrils that can grab onto anything, they even can climb vinyl siding with zero damage done when they are pulled off. Before i grew this I had read on the interweb  volumes of complaints railed against cobea scandens because it blooms very late if started by seed after frost. Well, you can start it indoors or a greenhouse if you have one, or you can quit your crabbing because…HELLLO! the late bloom is the point of the thing.

Most  years I grew the straight species, and it’s adorable ittle flowers that look like tiny tea cups on saucers, ( hence it’s common name cup and suacer vine) adorn the front of my garage for the better part of August-October. It is divine. This year I have the cltvr.’Alba’ and I am a little less than impressed with the flowers as they don’t stand out as much , although if you are close up they are great. The garage just needs a jolt of color …note for next year. You could actually overwinter this plant if you cut it back and bring it inside as it is a tender perennial not  technically an annual. I have one growing in morning shade/afternoon sun and one growing in  part shade all day into a birch tee.

DSC_0004 (2) DSC_0001 (3) DSC_0005 (3) DSC_0001 (4)

Hyacinth bean is another stunner with it’s lilac to white flowers and electric purple pods. This vine can be seed started directly in the ground after it is warm outside ( here June 1) and the heat will make it soar. I have used it in many places here and find the direct sown plants perform MUCH better than any I start early indoors. the foliage is lovely on this one as well. I must mention though, that is is a full sun plant.

hy2 hy

Morning glories get a bad rap, but with all the new varieties you can find on ebay, as well as the tried and true like Heavenly Blue  and Grandpa Ott, there is no reason not to include them in your garden. I find only the older ones will reseed , any I pay many $$ for a few seeds  never do. Some have nicier foliage than others ( picotee comes to mind) and some are just HUGE. Last year I grew Vega Star and that ting was a monster! With most varieties I would seed at least 4 or 5 vines in a space to get a good display, but this one a single plant will do.DSC_0010

Grandpa Ott

Grandpa Ott

Vega Star

Vega Star

vega star

vega star


Moon Flowers are anothe ipomea species ( related to morning glories) and are easy as pie, and the flowers are as big as one to boot. They are dreamy planted near any place you spend time at night  as they open then , although they also open on cloudy days too,mnfl

Rhodochiton astrosanguineum is an mouthful of a name for a very sweet plant with cool looking bell flowers ( common name: purple bell flower vine) that has the added attribute of liking a shady position. This year I have it growing in three places, all in containers to raise the flowers up to eyeball height.IMG_20160707_100814611


You can read an awful lot about annual vines on my blog, and I encourage you to plant as many as you can. When you think of how late they bloom, remind yourself that

a. they take up very little space in the ground so can be added amoung many other earleir bloomers and

b. late blooming is what we are after here.

How come no one ever complains about how early daffodils bloom????


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plant profile: cobaea scandens

Looking for a great addition to the late season garden? Of course you are! After the absolute explosion of bloom in July and  as we head into August it is nice to still have many things to look forward to garden -wise. I speak often about vines, and especially how  annual vines are just the ticket to a great Fall show, and cobaea scandens or cup and saucer vine is a standout among them

. ( a quick Latin refresher-the word scandens refers to anything that scrambles, so when you see it in a plant name assume you have a climbing or rambling  grower).

Cobae scandens is sometimes dismissed as a  garden plant here in the Northeast because it is a late starter. I will admit, getting it off and running can be tricky. The seeds are flat and tough and can take a few weeks to germinate. If you are starting them indoors from seed, tip the seeds  on their sides to avoid rotting. After germination they will take a while to get growing and need a lot of attention in hardening them off for growing outside,  If you like , you can direct sow the seed , but don’t even dare to do it before the June 1st here in z6 as it will gain you nothing and may loose you everything. The vine hails from Mexico , where it is perennial…and revels in the heat ,so a cool spring can do them in. I prefer to  order green house grown plants to start with , and really ,at less than $10 no matter where you order them from, they will repay you with quicker growth and earlier flowering.than if you started them yourself.

Once growing this vine will quickly cover a trellis , and if you use more than one plant you can cover a pergola or arbor. 20 -25 feet in a season is not unheard of. By the middle of July my vine was well over 10 feet and it has now hit it’s stride. ( the other vines in the photo are a moonflower and a sweet pea that is done blooming)DSC_0006 (2)

The foliage is a gorgeous dark green with purple undersides and stems ,and the many spring-like tendrils enable it to grab on to just about anything. After my vine outgrew the trellis, it had been happily climbing the siding by latching on the any little nook it could. I did, although, move it and gave it some twine to not only guide it to where I want it to grow, but for added support during  all the windy thunderstorms we get here in the summer.DSC_0004

DSC_0005The first flower appeared this week , and they are quite unusual. The bell  or cup shaped flower emerges a creamy white and will slowly darken to purple over time. The flower sits on open sepals that look very much like a saucer surrounding the cup, hence the common name.DSC_0003

A word of caution, t his plant likes humidity and water and will quickly be infested with spider mites if left to dry out. It is very humid here in the summer and I have it planted in a self-watering planter, so it is loving life.

Being a tender perennial, as opposed to an annual, I am going to try to overwinter this vine inside this year. I hope to give it a good haircut in the late Fall and place it in the bay window and see what happens. At the very least I hope it will survive to be replanted again in the Spring…and at the very best I hope I will be enjoying the lovely flowers indoors all winter long.  Only time will tell!

The photos I took below are of the flower over just two days.The  change in color  is already remarkable.  DSC_0001 DSC_0002


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This Sunday I will be speaking to the New England Hosta Society on Designing with Vines. Many gardening topics get me unduly excited, but anything to do with vining, scrambling or climbing plants sends me into the stratosphere ( as far as gardening goes).  Dorky, yes, but grow any of the annual vines I am about to list, and you too will be smitten.

So here is my the list of vine seeds waiting for the first frost free days to get sown and work their garden magic:

Morning Glories: Grandpa Ott, Crimson Rambler, and Heavenly Blue which get a place in the garden every year and new additions for 2015′ Vega Star’, ‘Dragonfly Blue’, and ‘Kikyo-zak’ mix, and a newcomer from 2014 that has earned a permanent place, ‘Sunrise Serenade’.

Other repeat growers include: Basella rubra ( climbing spinach) vigna unguiculata  ( pretzel bean), Runner Bean Painted Lady, Dolichos lablab (hyacinth bean’ Ruby Moon’),Antigonon Leptopus( Chinese love vine), Moonflower, cardinal climber , Nasturtiums’ Cherries Jubilee’ and’ Moonligh’t,  Climbing Black Eyed Susan Vine , and Sweet pea ‘Cupani’.

New varieties will include two nasturtiums, ‘Glorious Gleam’ and a variegated one, A sweet pea called ‘Elegance Salmon Rose’ Thunbergia alata ‘Spanish Eyes’ ( climbing black eyed Susan).DSC_0046

As far as perennial vines go , I started seeds of a species clematis called c.  columbiana , a native that will grow in the rock garden ,much  like it’s  it’s natural   habitat,

and I have ordered  replacements for some  sad losses , clematis tangutica ‘My Angel’ ( unsure why it died )and Rosa ‘William Baffin’ ( rabbits) and am toying with replacing the bignonia I lost to cold last winter but am still on the fence about it. It  would need a more sheltered location and those favored spots more often go to something more desirable and difficult than bignonia, we will see.

I am also hopeful that this is the year my climbing monkshood FINALLY blooms, fingers crossed!IMG_20150321_211530005


While I was sitting here looking through the seed box( Pumpkin was helping) I managed to spill about 10,000 poppy seeds all over ,into, and under the couch. Really thrilled about that, but honestly ,given my luck sowing them and protecting the flowers  from the rabbits, it was probably for the best.

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Morning Glory Madness Starts Now

Those of you who have heard me speak on “Design With Vines” know I am crazy about Morning Glories. Well let’s be honest all Ipomea species really have my heart.001 (4)

I love Ipomoea quamoclit, commonly called cypress vine for it’s featherly foliage and sweet star shaped flowers.

I love Ipomoea sloteri ( or x multifida) foe it’s vry cool palm shaped foliage and the hummingbirds love the flowers.006

But it is the old fashioned morning glory, or Ipomoea purpurea that ranks # 1 for me. So easy to grow, covered in sweet little flowers  in colors I adore, and don’t even get me started about all the new varieties I have yet to try.

But this post isn’t meant to do homage to my old -timey fav, it is meant as a reminder to get some Morning Glory seeds started in the house for winter bloom.  I may have admonished you not to been stingy in using all the seeds in your annual seed packets, but that came with a caveat to save just a few  Morning \Glories for the first week of August. Well, it is just that, so go find them.004

Soak the seeds in warm water overnight to soften the outer coating, then stick them in a pretty pot the next morning that has some sort of trellis or small obelisk in it. You can even use three pretty twigs arranged tee-pee style from a white birch tree if you prefer. Place it in a sunny spot near a window and you will be so very happy in December when you awaken on a dreary morning to find your first flower opening with the sun.

I like the foliage of the variety ‘Picotee’. It is a little fuzzy and thicker than the others, the flowers are very attractive too having that cute little frilly white edge. I have startted Picotee  indoors several times, and even combined it with a second variety for even more color.023 (3)

One year I placed two in one pot and that worked well .005 (7)023 (2)





.This year I plan to try Grandpa Ott 001 (7)and a new one for me called Sunrise Serenade which has a very unique flower form in smashing ruby red. Fingers crossed for this one to bloom like mad.

If you have other annual vines seeds hanging around and have the space , give them a go as well. Last winter I grew Love-in-a- puff  Halicacabum cardiospermum in the window as well and it climbed and flowered well until late spring.054



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It’s coming…

Picture1This weekend on Saturday night at  precisely 2:00 am begins our Daylight Saving Time, initially proposed as  a way to save electricity used by incandescent lighting (it did not) , it’s new purpose is to provide us more daylight in the evening after we presumably get out of work and are looking to frolic outdoors.  Although it means an hour of lost sleep to us in Spring (I don’t know about you but every few years I miss something because I forgot about the time change) , it is a lift to the spirit to have it light out at 6:00 pm and does help me get over  my tendency to hibernate in the cold dark months of winter. Love it or hate it, it is also the signal to get going  on plans for the garden, and that is exactly what I have been up to.

I am planning a complete overhaul of the side yard including the addition of three white pyramid tutuers I ordered from White Flower Farm,tutr planted with several new clematis hybrids and climbing roses. Pouring over rose catalogues and the clematis offerings of my favorite online nursery sources was one of the joys of winter and I have settled on two clematis ‘I am lady J’ ( in honor of my gram who was Jane)SONY DSCand ‘Wildfire’5CLEWILD and two roses, ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ and climbing’Iceberg’.  there will also be a hydrangea tree h.paniculata  ’Quickfire’  I am transplanting  from elsewhere in the garden, some little bluestem grasses  along with  the 5 different spirea cultivars that are currently in the area that will be rearranged . The planning has been a wonderful respite from the gloom of February, but now I am sort of dreading the execution which will involve bringing in new soil , lots of digging  and I am sure a few frustrating moments when the garden fails to meet the glorified pink purple and white plan in my head.

I have also been ordering  a number of plants I saw on garden tours over the summer that I fell in love with including hydrangea serrataPreziosa’  and a knautia called’ Thunder and Lightening’ . I will stop the list there lest Wil actually reads the post through , does the math , and cancels the credit card I use for online ordering. Shhh. I am trusting you not to tell.010

As always I am following my own advice and have stocked up on seeds of interesting annual vines for late season display ( morning glories, moonflower, cup and saucer vine, sweet peas, cypress vines, asarina species, nasturtiums and thunbergia alata …. I adore this one and I have many packets of seeds I saved from last year’s hyacinth bean vines, bottle gourds, pretzel beans etc. You should get on this same task  if you haven’t already. Make sure you add sweet pea lathyrus odoratus’Cupani’ to your orders/plans , it is a strong bloomer, divine  in color and scent, and heat tolerant. Happy Shopping!!!
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Plant Profile: One Thoroughly Amazing Honeysuckle( and a few runners-up)


I grow a number of honeysuckle ,or lonicera ,species in my garden and each has at least one attribute that makes it a must-have for me , and I would hope for you too.019 (7)

Lonicera periclymenum   ‘Harlequin’ has beautifully shaped variegated leaves with yellow/white margins that turn a deep rose color in the fall. It sports dark pink buds that open to pastel pink and cram colored blooms that have a slight sweet fragrance. The foliage alone makes this a great choice for  an arbor or against a fence as it is so beautiful. I grow 2 here, one behind and working its way into two large azeleas and one recently planted to climb on my new arbor tunnel out back.005

Lonicera fragrantissima  (above) is often called winter or fragrant honeysuckle because it has  flowers that emerge very early in the year that can scent the whole garden. It is worth its’  weight in gold because there few other plants that do much of anything in February and March, let alone give you a heavenly fragrance to enjoy. This honeysuckle is a shrub and well behaved especially given the family it belongs to. A few of its’ unruly cousins are out to conquer the world and difficult to manage in any garden. Not this guy! I wish I had room to have a whole hedge of them.peaches and cream

Lonicera periclmenum ‘Peaches and Cream’ (above) is a delightful new addition for me this year. It has lovely dark green foliage and grows to only 6 feet ,tops. White Flower Farm’s catalogue calls it “civilized” and I agree. It is compact and well mannered.  This honeysuckle has large dark purple buds that open to dark pink and creamy white, fading to a peachy cream , hence the name. It has already cycled through two long bloom sessions here with a short break in between. It is touted as resistant to mildew on the leaves but I have read reviews that beg to differ. Only time will tell, but the blossoms are  just lovely and sweetly scented too. 032

My favorite of all of them  is Lonicera sempervirens “Major Wheeler” . I planted two of these bines*  several years ago having ordered them from High Country Gardens on a whim.

Well, that was one great whim!  The dark green foliage is clean of mildew all year and the plants begin to bloom very soon after the leaves emerge in the very early spring. I planted one on an obelisk right outside my kitchen window and it has turned out to be one of my happiest garden decisions as hummingbirds flock to the red tubular nectar filled flowers  all summer long. Standing in front of the window with my first cup of coffee watching their antics is just about the best way to welcome the day I can think of.002 003 008029

Major Wheeler is never ever for one millisecond out of bloom from spring until at least into December. I have cut flowers that are on the bines even after all the leaves have dropped an there is snow on the ground.DSC_0006

The second plant I bought  was poorly sited in an area where the corgi dogs trampled it daily so I moved it last fall to the front fence. Now  it can be enjoyed all season by the many walkers that take their daily constitutional around the mile loop that is my road. I hope they enjoy it as much as I do.

FYI , always use caution when picking and planting honeysuckle varieties. One in particular , Lonicera japonica, is  a noxious weed that will cover any real estate it can reach and seed everywhere to boot. Many others are very large and can collapse a structure with their weight. Of course, you have some great choices here, so why look any further ;)

Also, honeysuckles like full sun and will perform poorly in shade. The ones listed here  are all hardy to US zone 4 .


*bine is the word for climbing plants that twine around things when they grow. Wisteria, some honeysuckles, and hops are a few.






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It’s a Girl!

Well, actually like many expectant parents I knew the gender beforehand, I just needed to witness it for confirmation. And no, it’s not a new baby Monroe, that ship has quite happily sailed….. it is a hop plant.

Humulus lupulus ‘Aurea’ , more commonly called Golden Hops, has been growing for a few years  up a series of connected trellises under a birch tree in my back yard in to block off the view of the composting area from the back garden. I got it as a teeny little division ( rhizome to be exact) from a my gardening pal Gayle. The hop plant is actually a bine, which is a plant that will climb by twining it stems around something,  unlike a vine which uses tendrils  or suckers to latch on and climb  (honeysuckle and bindweed are also bines) . Golden Hops will climb to maybe 16 feet or so and can get a bit unruly in a small area as the rhizomes will  multiply and spread out quickly underground. Although it is herbaceous and dies down to the ground every winter, it shoots out like a rocket in spring and can get very large and very  heavy in a single  season. The hairy stems can cause  dermatitis if in contact with the skin for prolonged periods, so all in all ,careful placement is a necessity, but if you have the space this plant is just stunning in the garden.002

The deeply lobed leaves of golden hops  start out bright chartreuse and fade to a bright lime green. It is labeled as  preferring to grow in full sun to part shade, but as I said , mine is planted under a birch tree and much of the plant is in the full shade although as it grows into the tree it gets far more sun.014

Getting back to the “girl” part, hop plants are dioecious, which means that  male and female flowers occur on separate plants . The male flowers are small and not very showy  but are necessary for pollination if you are looking for seeds to form. The female flowers (called ”hops”)  are 1-2 inch  cones that are fragrant and quite showy, and as many of you may know , what we humans use to add aroma and flavor/bitterness to beer.

I like beer. I like plants, but you could not convince me to brew my own using hops I grew as I was present when Wil went through his “home-brewer” phase and the mess is only second to the horrific smell that permeates everything when you brew beer  in your kitchen. Anyway, the hops from this particular plant are purely ornamental and not used for brewing, and this year, my plant finally has them!006

FYI most ornamental hop plants sold in your local  nursery are female  ,it is just , well, you never know for certain until the flowers erupt. Mine did, they are cones , they are lovely indeed , and my plants’ gender is confirmed!

When they ripen  in September they will turn yellow and I am going to take them  down off the tree limb they are currently hanging from so I can enjoy their pine like fragrance up close and personal.








Just as a side note, the Humulus plant harkens from the plant family Cannabaceae. can Recognize any famous relatives?

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Ramping up the late summer garden

Not all plants are created equal. There are some plants that are difficult to grow, fussy to the point of frustration, needy, disease ridden, or completely incapable of facing any environmental challenge without curling up and moving on to that great garden in the sky.

Then there are plants that are so easy you keep asking yourself is it luck? any day now will whatever magical  charm has been  placed on them evaporate and  leave me  with a pile of dead brown sticks? can gardening be this easy?? As a group, annual ornamental vines fall squarely and securely into the latter category.

For mere pennies, ok 200 pennies , you can buy a packet of seeds at the hardware store( or if you are fussy 300 pennies plus shipping and handling will get you specific cultivars from the likes of Johhnys Select Seeds or Burpee), dig a little hole, water until germination and Viola! you get to enjoy  bloom covered masses of plants from late summer until hard frost.

Cypress vine ipomoea quamoclit, morning glory, purple hyacinth bean , scarlet runner bean,moon flower ipopmea alba ,cup and saucer vine cobaea scandens , purple bell flower rhodochiton astrosanguineum , climbing spinach basella rubra,  spanish flag mina lobata, love in a puff caardiospermum halicacabum ,climbing black eyed susan thunbergia spc,nasturtiums, mandevilla ,even bottle gourds are all quick easy and almost foolproof additions to the late summer garden. *

A few others, like  asarina scandens which needs a 10-12 week head start indoors , and climbing aster aster carolinianus whcih needs things a little more damp, are worth a try as well.

This time of year anything you can add to your garden to help assuage that  sinking feeling  summer has past by and soon another winter will be here is essential. Not a year goes by that I am not grateful for the bevy of ornamental vines that are now coloring my garden, check out some photos below.

Next year I am going to try again ( third time is the charm?????) to start climbing monkshood aconitum hemsleyanum ,if  anyone has ever started it from seed successfully or better yet knows of a vendor who sells started plants let me know.


*in New England, where all of these are annual, feel free to grow and enjoy…in southern states where these vines are perrenial or seed can oerwinter many can be thugs

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