Garden Design

Designing with Vines

Designing with vines is a great way to bring your garden to new heights. With home lots getting smaller, there may be nowhere to go but up!

Vines add mood to the landscape – mystery, maturity, opulence, abundance, romance and adventure. Adding vines also gives the garden more depth by adding another layer.

Vines on Arbor

Vines on Arbor / Helen Yoest

Only vines can create the dignified and stately look of an ivy-covered wall or the bright and cheery country feel of morning glories on a garden fence.

Vines will also hide an undesirable such as a drain spout or perhaps adding a vine to accent a particular area of your home such as the porch entrance. A home covered in vines is the epitome of idyllic charm. For these and many more reasons, designing with vines adds interest and style to your home.

Understanding a Vine’s Habit

When selecting a vine for a particular area in our landscape, understanding how a vine attaches becomes important.

Vines climb by a variety of means, and it’s useful to know how they do so in order to buy the best vine for your purpose. Some vines need more help than others to climb. If you want a vine that climbs unaided, then you will be disappointed choosing a climbing rose in hopes it will scale the back of your house.

There are four ways vines attach. Understanding vining habits will help your grow a better vine.

Clingers – Using tiny root hairs, clinging vines attach to surfaces.  English ivy, creeping fig, and climbing hydrangea are good examples of clinging vines. If you pull the vine off the wall, it leaves marks from where the rootlets were attached. These vines need no support.  They freely climb using their own resources.

Twiners – Using their stems to twine around a structure such as a trellis, porch post, gazebo, or arbor. These types of vines include wisteria, morning glory, and hops. They wrap their stems around suitable supports and pull themselves up.

Tendrils – Certain vines use either stem or leaf tendrils like little lassos to climb. Looking closely at the vine, the tendril will either come from the leaf or the stem to grab whatever is handy to pull its self along. Grape vines, clematis, sweet peas and passionflowers use tendrils to travel.

Spikers – Spikers spike into something, using their thorns to pull themselves along. Spikers tend to need a little help with support to go where you want them to go. Climbing roses use their thorns to climb.  Tying the canes onto a sturdy trellis or wire onto a fence at various locations will help your spiker along.

Selecting A Vine by its Nature
Choose a vine to best fit your needs; vines are deciduous, evergreen or semi evergreen; annual or perennial.

When selecting a vine for a chain link fence, you may consider an evergreen such as Clematis armandii. If you have a pretty wooden picket or wrought iron fence, you may want to enjoy its architectural value in the winter, so choosing a vine that completely dies back in the winter would be a consideration. Vine choices could include a sweet autumn or mandevilla.

Consider growth rate and size before selecting a vine for a particular purpose. While sun and water requirements are important, it is also important not to select a vine that will too quickly overcome a space or not grow enough to the serve the intended purpose.

Whatever their nature (annual or perennials, evergreen semi-evergreen or deciduous) or habit (clinger, twiner, tendrils, spiker or climber), vines add value in the garden. Isn’t it time for your garden to grow up?

Helen Yoest is a gardening coach and designer through her company Gardening with Confidence™. You can catch up with Helen via her blog at

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