Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Annuals

Grow Up with Vertical Gardening

by Susan Littlefield

Are you a space challenged gardener? Get the most out of each square foot in both your food and ornamental gardens by growing plants up trellises and fences, over arbors and pergolas, or on free-standing plant supports. And even if you have lots of room for planting, vertical gardening can make an eye-catching accent, offer shade, provide privacy, and add a sense of structure to the garden in all seasons.

To help you go vertical, we are happy to offer you 20% off your next Gardening With Kids order, with 100% of all shop proceeds supporting school gardens. Just use coupon code VINE20 at checkout. Please note offer expires 7/31/14.

Try Annual Vines

Grow some quick color to adorn a cedar pyramid trellis by planting some fast growing annual vines. Set in flower bed or against a background of shrubs, a flower bedecked pyramidal trellis makes a stunning focal point. Below are some vigorous vines that will quickly clamber up a trellis in one season for a summer-long show.

Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) The common name ″moonflower″ is apt for two reasons. First, the flowers open in the evening, emitting a wonderful clove-like scent. Second, the 6-inch flowers are round and white -- moonlike. Plant it near your patio or, if you spend your evenings on a screened porch, train moonflower to climb the door frame so you can enjoy the intoxicating scent of the flowers as you relax at the end of the day.

Spanish flag (Ipomoea lobata, formerly Mina lobata) The striking blooms on this vigorous vine start out deep red, then fade to yellow and then white as they mature, with all three colors showing up on each flower cluster. The dark green, three-lobed leaves are attractive, too. Vines can reach to 20 feet.

Hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus) This vine has much to offer; striking deep green leaves with maroon veins, white to purple pea-like flowers, and shiny, dark maroon seedpods. Neither a hyacinth nor a true bean, this vigorous vine will climb to 10 feet or more. Don't be tempted to eat the attractive pods; they are mildly toxic.

Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) Sporting dark-throated orange, yellow, or white blossoms with dark centers, black-eyed Susan vine is popular for its manageable size and abundant flowers. Under ideal conditions -- fertile soil in a lightly shaded location -- vines can reach up to 8 feet in length and are perfect for hanging baskets and window boxes.

Adorn Wall with Planters

Another way to make great use of vertical space? Climb the walls! Attach hanging Woolly Pocket Planters to a wall of your house or shed, a fence, or any other vertical surface (even indoors!) that could use some visual interest. Made from recycled plastic water bottles, each Woolly Pocket holds 0.40 cubic feet of soil and can be hung almost anywhere, indoors or out; a moisture barrier ensures that walls stay dry. While you can grow all kinds of plants in a Woolly Pocket, they look especially nice when planted with ″spillers,″ plants that send out a cascade of flowers and foliage. Here are some suggestions for trailing plants to try.

Blue fan flower (Scaevola aemula) A tender perennial grown as an annual, this Australian native revels in summer heat, producing a waterfall of purple-blue, fan shaped flowers all summer long without the need for deadheading. Give it full sun for the best flowering. (That botanical name is pronounced skee-VOL-luh EM-yoo-luh, by the way!)

Million bells (Calibrachoa) Looking like miniature petunias, these easy care, drought tolerant, trailing plants bloom like gangbusters all summer, as long as they get plenty of sun and you feed them on a regular basis through the summer. Unlike petunias, they don't require deadheading.

Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) Grown primarily for their attractive foliage, these vines may also produce lavender, trumpet-shaped flowers occasionally. But the chartreuse, deep purple, or copper colored leaves are the real show. Sweet potato vine thrives in hot weather and will take full sun or part shade.

Lobelia (Lobelia erinus) Dainty lobelia is perfect for a planter in part shade, but will do well in full sun in cooler climates. (Look for varieties labelled ″heat-tolerant″ if you garden in hot summer parts of the country.) Available in shades of blue, pink, and white, lobelia produces a froth of tiny flowers that contrast nicely with bolder leaved plants. For pocket planters, look for trailing varieties such as the 'Cascade' series. If flower production begins to flag in midsummer, cut back plants for a renewed show when the weather cools in early fall.

Grow Edibles Vertically

What if you're short on space, but big on the desire for a homegrown harvest? You can even grow vegetables on a wall with a Skyscraper Vertical Garden. Imagine harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers or pole beans without even having to bend over! This easy-to-assemble kit creates a 4' x 6' reusable trellis that grows vertically vining plants either against a wall or as a free-standing unit using your own posts. The unit takes up just four square feet of growing space but produces more vegetation than a 24 square foot plot!

So grow up! Take your garden to a new level with some vertical plantings this season.

Donate Today

The Garden in Every School Initiative

Special Report - Garden to Table

— ADVERTISEMENTS —