|Boston Ivy - U. of Chicago.|
I do not envy the groundskeepers.
Questions about Vines
One reader asked about which vines to use, to form a screen between his grumpy WELS neighbors and his home. The vines should also be bird-friendly. Here are some considerations:
- Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata, aka Japanese Ivy, aka Wild Grape). This is the ivy of the Ivy League. One fellow loved it in Japan and brought it to Harvard University, causing Yale to covet and later to loathe it. This vine is a member of the grape family, so birds love it. The ideal use of the vine is to cover ugly, broken down stone surfaces. The vine likes to head for the sun, so planting it in a shady place will motivate it to grow, but not when planted in a sunny location. The vine holds itself up with little glue pads that can be removed with an aggressive use of explosives or chisels or fulminating acids - something to consider when planting near a home.
- English Ivy (Hedera helix) grows on the front of our house, and I like it. This ivy can be invasive. It grows in the sun and climbs well. English Ivy can choke and kill a tree, but birds and insects love it. We have a bird that sits on the vine in the front window and pecks at his male rival reflected back at him. Oregon has banned the use of English Ivy.
- Honeysuckle Vine (Lonicera) is a vigorous vine that needs support. I bought some tape made for that. Some suggest old nylons - where can anyone find those? Honeysuckle is extremely popular for a number of reasons. I bought a vine (Scentsation) and found it vigorous and quick to bloom, even before it was ready to climb. Hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies love its blooms, fragrance, and nectar. Wait - there's more. People like to sip the sweet nectar too. This vine can also be used as ground cover.
- Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) can be planted if the gardener intends to control it. We had growing on the garage of the historic Jackson Home in Moline. I remember its tendrils coming up in the lawn, and the mower kept it under control. Hummingbirds love the flower, sipping its nectar and nabbing insects attracted to the flower. People like to fill hummingbird feeders. I like to grow them. This vine can spread, and it climbs on its own. They drop seed easily. This website suggests not planting the vine along the house.
Most authorities suggest keeping an eye on these vines and pruning them. People seem to think a plant needs no care. When grown in the right place for the right reason, the characteristics of that plant will be a blessing. Like trees, plants need attention and occasional pruning. Nothing looks worse than shabby trees, rampant choking vines, and unkempt roses.
|There are many vetches - 140 - but this one is mine - Cow Vetch.|
Yesterday I identified an odd looking plant that appeared in the front rose garden and also climbing the fence in the backyard. The plant flowered, so I took the purple flower inside and began using Google Images to identify it. I came up with Cow Vetch (Vicia cracca, pea family). I was tempted to pull it from the ground before I studied the plant, even though it looked fragile and harmless. Cow Vetch is another vine, which butterflies love for its prolific blooms. Consequently, it drops seed like a champion. Hundreds of blooms, hundreds of seeds. Bees and butterflies love it. So Cow Vetch can be vexing in the wrong place, but it is ideal for the backyard fence, which I plan to cover with vining growth of one type or another.
A wild area with so-called weeds, herbs, and long grass will increase the diversity of bees, butterflies, birds, and insects.
Mulch Is the Answer
Sassy and I visited Lowe's gardening department yesterday - she was welcomed as a celebrity. "I remember Sassy," said one young clerk. A mother and grandmother wanted their little girl to look at Sassy, who went from person to person looking for new friends.
We were there for clay flower pots and some mulch. Looking around, I was struck by the piles of toxins sold - stinking combinations of inorganic fertilizer and pesticides. Most gardening articles in the popular press will recommend both for any problem, and more of the same when they do not work. Inorganics kill - they work against the gardener.
I came back with an armful of flower pots and told the young woman, "My grandson and I will make toad houses with these, crack them in half and set them up as shelters. Each toad consumes 10,000 insects per summer.
She was staggered by the figures, having no idea about the power of a resident toad. I also bought a flat clay tray (normally under a flower pot) for the toad to use for hydration. They are not swimmers and do not drink water. They sit in shallow water and absorb it. A dish under the soaker hose will fill itself and stay reasonably clean. I dump them out regularly ( to remove skeeter eggs or babies).
How does a gardener start with mulch? One reader was thinking about getting some wood mulch to hold down the newspapers. Being short of one item can stall plans for the garden.
I suggested branches to hold down the newspapers. Leaves and grass and soil can be used, too. Leaves and grass are often too light, but they are good additions if the newspapers remain soggy and heavy. If I am short of mulch, I use mushroom compost to hold down and cover up newspapers.
Stick piles are good. We are tempted to throw them all away. Instead, toss them in the same pile. Birds love to sit on them, and insects will accumulate there - an added attraction for birds. Logs rotting into the soil are especially good for the garden. I have a massive one serving as the barrier in front of the back, back garden area. I have another large one that curves upward to waist height, near the Jackson Bird Spa. Birds perch on it all day long. A pile of sticks is also next to the spa.
|This is Scentsation Honeysuckle Vine.|
It began growing at once and bloomed quickly.