by Peter L. Warren
The reasons for using vines in the landscape are many and varied. First of all, southern Arizona’s bright sunshine and warm temperatures make them a practical means of climate control. Climbing over an arbor, vines give quick shade for patios and other outdoor living spaces. Planted beside a house wall or window, vines offer a curtain of greenery, keeping temperatures cooler inside. In exposed situations vines provide wind protection and reduce dust, sun glare, and reflected heat.
Vines add a vertical dimension to the desert landscape that is difficult to achieve with any other kind of plant. Vines can serve as a narrow space divider, a barrier, or a privacy screen. Some vines also make good ground covers for steep banks, driveway cuts, and planting beds too narrow for shrubs.
As design elements, vines offer an exciting array of plant forms, textures and floral effects. They add a special touch of charm and grace when festooning walls, trellises, and garden light posts or trailing over a doorway or corner of the home. Vines serve all of these landscape purposes and yet require little ground space.
Before selecting a particular vine, determine your landscape needs. The type of structure to be covered and the climbing support offered will partially determine what type of vine to choose. Vines can be grouped into four categories based on the manner of climbing.
These have stems that wrap themselves around any available support as they grow. Their coverage is totally dependent on the size and extent of the support.
Such vines support themselves by wrapping tendrils, modified, slender, flexible side-shoots, around anything to which they can cling.
Both twining and tendril-type vines are easily trained on fences, trellises, baffles, upright posts, wooden towels, pipes, and even wires fasted securely at both ends.
Both twining and tendril-type vines will not grow on untextured wall surfaces lacking structural support needed for climbing. Support provided for these vines should be sturdy enough to bear the weight of the full-grown vine. A trellis can be used or, if an espaliered effect is desired, special masonry nails are available from nurseries and hardware stores. Wire can be stretched between the nails for more support. Vine stems should be tied with plastic tape or plastic covered wire. For heavy vines, use galvanized wire run through a short section of garden hose to protect the stem.