Well into his winter garden planning, your friendly Planet Natural blogger is thinking of vertical growing, both in the garden and around the yard. Maybe an arbor at the entrance too, well, I’m not sure yet. Or vines, heavy with trumpet blossoms, trailing up over a trellis placed against a fence. This could be a winter project, the way to get through a cold January and February, maybe even March (knowing how I proceed), then, come spring, set the thing outside and plant climbing vines.
I had youthful success doing this once before in the friendly climate of Venice, California. In fact, too successful. My trumpet vines and bougainvillea grew so thick and so far — and so heavy — that they eventually pulled down the slat fence that largely supported them. After the expensive repairs, I kept my vines trimmed and contained.
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We’re all about quaint and traditional methods of supporting vegetable plants that need it, from pole beans to tomatoes. We’ve seen some pretty unique pea fences in our day and tried some of the classic ways of staking tomatoes to keep them upright as the fruits grow large. We feel we’ve got support handled in the seasonal vegetable garden. Now, we’re thinking of something more permanent in the landscape and considering ideas for a trellis garden or two, even an arbor.
The trellis or a fence or an arbor gives mother nature the chance to grow vertically. They can have a beauty of their own while providing support, passage, and architectural contrast to your natural landscape. Vines and other plants that climb are among the garden’s most beautiful, both when filled with blossoms and when not.
It’s been suggested to me that I consider what I’m going to plant before getting too far down the road with designing the support. Vines are fairly easy to grow but not all are suitable for all locations. It’s doubtful that here in Montana I could grow trumpet flowers in such profusion as I did in Venice (and I’d love to hear from gardeners who can prove me wrong).
But then, there are graceful, lovely wisteria vines that will do well in mild climates and survive in cold zones down to 3. I’ll be sure to talk to my local nursery staff to see what they recommend. Most vines thrive in full sun but some do well in partial shade. Again, local knowledge is key. Just walking around your neighborhood seeing what others grow can be informative.
How the particular vine you choose attaches itself to the support is another consideration. Vines cling in three ways: by twining or circling around a pole or branch, by tendrils that the vine grows that reach and clasp another surface, and the clinging vines that adhere to surfaces by suction. A traditional flat trellis is good for vines that attache with tendrils, Clinging vines can grow right up the fence.
Grape arbors are all the rage. Grape vines can be trained to grow up and over an arbor, providing the kind of dappled shade you’ll crave next August and, if you’re lucky, some fruit. You can get specific plans from Michigan State University (PDF) or find one of many such plans offered online or in garden project guides.
Trellises are an easier matter. You can buy them commercially and there’s all kinds of plans floating around in books and online. Our favorites are the more artistic, rustic types, made from salvaged material or woven tree prunings. Those built from unexpected or scrap materials are often the most beautiful.
I’d bet that roses are the reason most landscape trellises go up. So, thanks to P. Allen Smith, here’s directions for a rustic, homemade trellis perfect for roses. Have photos of trellises you designed, now in use in your garden? Send them to our Facebook page. We could use some inspiration.