In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
October, 2000
Regional Report

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Purple hyacinth bean climbs up an arbor, showing off its purple blooms and seed pods.

Growing Vertical

Fall is a perfect time for planting many types of landscape plants, but I don't always think of vines as an option. The choices are fewer than of shrubs and trees in the Southwest, but vines add an interesting vertical to the landscape.

Versatile Vines

Vines can cover the cement-block walls that enclose many of our landscapes and provide relief from the relentless heat and light reflected from those walls during summer. Vines on the walls create a wonderful habitat for lizards, which scurry from one end to another, protected by the foliage and eating insects along the way.

You can train vines to scramble up ramadas and patio covers, providing shade over our heads as we enjoy the outdoors, or on tepee structures to create secret gardens for children. Children love to play in a tepee covered with sweet pea vines and inhale the fragrance, or with pole bean vines and eat the beans.

Support Your Local Vine

Most vines that grow well in the Southwest require some kind of sturdy support to twine on, and perhaps ties to get them started. Vines can be vigorous growers and suddenly produce a lot of weight, so whatever you choose to support your vines, be sure it's strong enough for the long term.

Catlike Vines

A terrific vine that supports itself is called cat's claw vine (Macfadyena unguis-cati). It has tiny but tenacious three-pronged "claws" that grip flat surfaces, so it doesn't need a separate structure for support. I love this vine because it requires almost no care on my part. However, it is vigorous, and it's difficult to remove the little claws once they've gripped onto a surface (kind of like kitties on your new sweater). Cat's claw vine blooms with pretty yellow trumpet flowers in spring.

Other Favorite Vines

Purple hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus) blooms profusely in fall and puts on quite a color show once flowering. In addition to the pretty pinkish purple blossoms, the foliage has purple veins and stems. Even the pea-like seed pods are a stunning purple that almost glistens.This vine requires strong support.

Queen's wreath (Antigonon leptopus) is another stunning bloomer, with clusters of delicate coral pink flowers from mid to late summer and on into fall. It may suffer from frost but should regrow in spring.

Pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana) has fairly lush green foliage for a plant that does so well in the desert. However, it is invasive, growing long whips that will smother nearby plants if you don't keep it under control. It blooms spring through fall.


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