In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
June, 2007
Regional Report

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Sweetpeas are easy to grow and wonderfully fragrant. I love cutting the flowers for indoor bouquets.

Use Annual Vines for a Splash of Color

Annual vines are such versatile plants that I include them in my garden every year. Their wide range of foliage textures and flower colors makes them suitable for gardens large or small, shady or sunny. I think annual vines are especially suited to small gardens where there's barely room to spread outward, but plenty of room to reach upward. Walls, fences, arbors, or even empty airspace above beds and borders can provide annual vines with a home.

Most annual vines bloom enthusiastically all summer long, even during hot spells when many perennials begin to fade. This trait brightens the garden and makes their flowers quite popular with bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds looking for a sip of nectar.

Favorite Vines
Sweet peas and scarlet runner beans are favorites in my garden. They're easy to grow and reward me with spectacular color. Others I've tried include hyacinth bean (Dolichas lablab), with beet-purple stems and flower buds, purplish green leaves, and upright spikes of purple, pink, and white flower clusters; creeping gloxinia (Asarina erubescens), a fast-growing member of the figwort family, with soft, gray-green, triangular leaves and single, trumpet-shaped, 3-inch pink flowers; and canary creeper (Tropaeolum peregrinum), a climbing nasturtium with medium-green five-lobed leaves and 1-inch-long yellow flowers. The two upper petals of each flower are fringed and feathery, and the three lower ones are narrower and smaller -- they really do resemble birds!

Choosing a Support
Fences, walls, trellises, and poles are the most common supports, but the possibilities are endless. As you choose a support, think about the options. Do you want a free-standing or attached support? Can you take advantage of existing fences or walls? What kind of structure will best complement the design of the garden? Do you want a temporary or permanent support? However you choose to support your vines, match the support to the vine's mature height and its climbing habit, and always make the support stronger than you think is needed.

Care
I start my vines from seeds, sowing indoors under lights about four weeks before I transplant them into the garden. Once transplanted, I prop up the juvenile shoots by tying to bamboo stakes until they're long enough to reach the permanent support. The little shoots will need additional coaxing to get a foothold, but as the vines mature they will develop a network of stems and leaves to provide support for newly emerging stems.

Other than initial training to climb a support, annual vines need little care. I fertilize and water them as I would most annual flowers. They don't require deadheading, and I've never had to spray them for insects or diseases.

The nice thing about annual vines is they're gone at the end of the growing season. You can experiment with different vines each year until you find the ones you love.


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