Friday, May 21, 2010


IT IS amazing.  The amount of vines in the tropics.  However, out of every twenty garden installations, maybe two will be found.  In commercial/residential, public or private spaces down here.


Passifllora Edulis
Cavalinna maritima
Ipomoea quamoclit
Merremia quinquefolia
Clitoria ternatea
Antigonon leptopus

Botany for Gardeners
Brian Capon 
page 103

Most species are unable to elevate leaves high above the ground on thin, herbaceous stems.  But not so with climbing vines that make deft use of their specially adapted organs, and the strength of suitable supports to accomplish such a fea

The stems of some vines grow in a spiral manner around upright objects such as small trunks of shrubs or saplings, or fence posts and telephone poles.  Stem displaying such characteristic growth are called twiners.  The higher a twining stems grows, the more tightly it hugs its support.

Other species form special grasping organs, called tendrils, that are either modified leaf parts or short stems derived from the growth of axillary buds.  Tendrils coil around small objects with which they come into contact-the stems of other plants, or garden stakes, fence wires, and string supports.  Once anchored , the principal stem grows upward a short distance before sending out more tendrils.  Leaf tendrils are adapted from leaflets or compound leaves (Sweet Pea, for
example), stipules ( Green Briar), or petioles (Clematis).

In other species, climbing structures include short branches with adhesive disks at their tips.  With such devices, Virginia Creeper
(Phartethenocissus spp.) clings tenaciously to the walls of buildings. 
Or penetrate and expand in cracks in three bark, wooden fences, masonry, etc.  With age, some climbing stems become woody and bear
heavy leaf loads; but by then, they are securely anchored it is extremely difficult to separate them from their supports.

Now that you have essential information, If interested beware of the following from MY experience in the last 16 months.

Cavalinna and Passiflora have a STIFF appearance, thick/rough leaves.  Very unruly growth, requiring trim often, too often
for my liking.  The flowers are nice looking, attracting black beetles and hummingbirds.  Not recommended for fences, unless
the chicken wire/lattice type.  However, if you have a trellis, they could provide a thick shade, in addition to fragrance and fruit.

Ipomoea quamoclit.  A beautiful  velvety, bright, red star shaped flower. Attracts hummingbirds. A big minus is their habit of passing away out of the blue, leaving you with ugly brown dead vines.

Merremia quinquefolia.  Nice white bell shaped flowers. They are soft, with a nice effect when wind blows, but if they touch the ground after the climbing and coming down....Become a ground cover, pain in the ass....

That leaves Clitoria and Antigonon, yep my first name is similar,
and no accident.  At any rate, both are soft, excellent movement against the wind.  The first has a dominant blue indigo, a rare color, only found in Commelina elegans, a ground cover, favorite
of chicken and rabbits..  Antigonon comes in light pink and white.

It is pertinent to mention that you should research and observe before planting.  Hedera helix is the predominant/popular vine family in cold climates, from my little knowledge. Ficus pumila is their close equivalent for the tropics.  Both require trim with time. 

If you are into gardening beyond the repugnant common place trends of turf, palm trees and Ficus hedges you should give it some thought.  Even if deciding not to deal with vines.

If you ask your humble servant, Why are they so scarce?  Simple.
If you read the above facts carefully, to have these kind of plants in a nursery will be a royal pain in the ass to keep up.  That is why they are not sold.  In Puertorico, Petrea volubilis and Ficus pumila are the only ones I have seen once in a while.

Another reason, I do not know how the cookie crumbles in your neck of the woods, in Puercorico, is this simple.  If you have a vine
growing in a shared fence with a neighbor he/she will certainly
complain or destroy it. Since we put the metal fences to the right
and left of our property when we moved, it has not been the case.

I remind you far away reader that Puercorico is well known for
the quality of its citizens regarding environmental issues. They will knock down a thirty year old Native oak, because the leaves
make a mess on their sidewalk, driveway, or the birds shit on their cars.

Finally, the advantage of vines over live hedges is the fast speed
of growth to cover ground/space.  Privacy, fragrance, fruit, flowers and security is what you get in return.

Almost forgot to mention woody bushes like Bouganvillea with somewhat similar qualities as vines.  You could train the branches to reach those goals mentioned...In addition, the paper like flowers will increase the beauty in your property, providing extra security.  If you plant them in those areas prone to be escalated due to faulty design in your house/property,
believe me, no juan could go over it... The plenty, strong thorns will not allow it.. Time to go...Apaga i vamonos...


1 comment:

  1. Thanks Antigonum! The vines you have here are all beautiful.

    Btw, are these vines suitable for creating an espalier?


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