The Flowering Vine, Morning Glory Heavenly Blue
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In terms of ornamental grandeur derived from floral displays, the most underrated assets we have in the horticultural world are the flowering vines. Blankets of yellow, red, purple, white, blue orange and just about any other color you can think of have embellished dirty old fences, chipped pillars and columns, rusted stair railings, neglected sheds and disfigured walls for centuries. Cascades of opulent colors have introduced drama and elegance to building facades, balconies, porches and bridges. Unfortunately, in today’s world where instant gratification is the only acceptable gratification, flowering vines are a rarity. They are a rarity for the simple fact that vines take time to grow. You can’t run to the garden center and grab a pot of 12 foot vines to drape along your fence. BUT, with just a little bit of patience (we’re talking 4-6 weeks) and a pot of three flowering vines or a simple 6-inch wide row, you can build a truly unforgettable ornamental masterpiece. All flowering vines should be planted in the late spring or early summer when the soil has become very warm. The seeds can be scored and soaked for 24 hours before planting to hasten germination. Seeds should be planted 6 inches apart. Germination will occur in 14-21 days. Seedlings should be thinned to provide 8-12 inches between plants. This newsletter is dedicated to inspiring you to think about using ornamental vines this summer around your home, office or apartment balcony. Take a look at the photo at the top of this newsletter. Three Morning Glory Heavenly Blue plants in one 12-inch pot are all that was required to build this mass of green and blue in just 6 weeks from seeding. Those vines covered a truly ugly stair railing and every morning provided a glorious display to invigorate the start of each day.
The Morning Glory, Sunrise Serenade
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The morning glories that we have come to love are native to the tropical regions of North and South America. Other members of the Ipomoea family are native to other tropical regions throughout the world, but the showy vines originated here. There are three species from which most of our morning glories have developed. Ipomoea nil (nil meaning indigo) are the blue to purple morning glories, of which Heavenly Blue and Grandpa Ott’s are the best known. Ipomoea albais the white Moonflower. Ipomoea Horsfallia are the crimson or rose-colored morning glories. Sunrise Serenade belongs to this group. In the late 1800s after morning glories were introduced into Japan, the Japanese fell in love with this flower. Most of the traditional plant development work that has been done with morning glories has been done by the Japanese, and they are the culture that produced Sunrise Serenade. Of all the morning glories commercially available, Sunrise Serenade is unique. The crimson to rose red flowers are double. The edge of each petal is ruffled giving the blossom a textural quality. The vines easily reach a length of 10-15 feet and are covered with brilliant green leaves. Sunrise Serenade produces an abundance of blossoms throughout the summer and fall months, and is a vigorous self-seeder. Like all flowering vines, Sunrise Serenade does very well in a container. Three plants in a 10 to 12-inch pot will completely cover 12-15 feet of railing, fence or wall. Soaking the seeds for 12-24 hours before planting will hasten germination. If you want something truly unique in the garden this season, Sunrise Serenade is an excellent candidate.
The Flowering Vine, Nasturtium Tall
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Nasturtiums have been a part of America’s history since the very early colonial days, but not for their floral beauty. Nasturtiums were valued because of their edible qualities. The leaves are peppery and make a great salad condiment. The buds, when pickled, are a great substitute for capers. The flowers can be eaten or used as a condiment. Nasturtiums were a part of the American diet from the 1600s. Today, most nasturtiums are not vining nasturtiums. The plants are meant to be used as border plants and grow to a height of 6-8 inches. Only nasturtiums labeled as tall or vining nasturtiums grow to 4-8 feet. Nasturtiums are easy to grow. This makes them a great choice for children’s gardening, but they are also very historic and they are both ornamental and edible. Nasturtiums were discovered by the Spanish in Peru in the early 1500s. The Spanish introduced them to Europe and by the 1590s, nasturtiums were known in Great Britain. The colonists carried seed for nasturtiums back to North America in the early 1600s. This easy to grow flower is as American as Apple Pie, perhaps more so, because it has been a part of our history since the beginnings of this country and it is a flower/vegetable/herb that every American child should know.
The Flowering Vine, Thunbergia
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If you have ever seen a fence covered with this vine, you will never forget the drama engineered by hundreds of small, brilliantly yellow, black-eyed flowers resting against a mantle of lush green foliage. Thunbergia is native to Madagascar, parts of Africa and Asia. Linnaeus named the plant after Peter Carl Thunberg, a Swedish botanist who lived from the mid 1700s to the early 1800s. Thunbergias were grown in American gardens beginning in the 1700s. Joseph Breck in his book, Breck’s Book of Flowers, written in 1830, but not published until 1851, describes three Thunbergias – a perennial, buff-colored thunbergia, an annual white-flowered thunbergia and the orange-yellow flower that is most prevalent today. This vine which can grow to 20 feet in a single season was often grown as a greenhouse plant in 19th century America and England. Today seed is often hard to obtain, but when seed is available it is easy to germinate and the plants grow rapidly. Thunbergias can be used to hide the ugliest outdoor architectural mishaps and they make effective and handsome privacy screens. They are an exotic piece of historic horticulture with many applications for the modern world.
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Vining Flowers are some of the best container plants with which you can garden. One of the projects that I love to do in the summer is to take 3, 10-12 inch pots and plant one with 3 Morning Glory Heavenly Blue plants, one with 3 Moonflower plants and one with 3 Hyacinth Bean plants. The result is day long entertainment. In the early morning, the Heavenly Blue vines are a blanket of blue. All day the Hyacinth Bean vines hold clusters of burgundy wine colored pods, and throughout the evening, the Moonflower vines with their giant white blossoms fill the warm evening air with a gentle fragrance that is unforgettable.
The Flowering Vine, Hyacinth Bean
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This extraordinary vine has been a part of American gardens since before the time of Thomas Jefferson. It was a favorite at Monticello where it was grown on teepees in the ‘Hanging Garden”. Joseph Breck, in the first book on American flower gardens, The Flower Garden, written in 1832 but not published until 1851 described it as,
“A fine, tender annual climber, growing from 8 to 15 feet in a season…”.
Hyacinth Bean is native to tropical Africa, but has been cultivated for centuries throughout Asia and Africa. It was introduced into North America in the early 1700s. This is one of the showiest of all vines. Its green foliage is dense. It produces spikes of pinkish purple flowers. The flowers are then followed by the richest burgundy-colored bean pods you will ever see. The plant continues to flower throughout the season and to produce clusters of bean pods. It is a fabulous container plant – 3 plants in a 10 inch container. The vine can grow up to 20 feet in a season. The flowers have a lovely sweet fragrance which attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. This historic bean is easy to grow, prolific and beautiful.
The Flowering Vine, Moonflower
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A delight for an adult who is introducing a child to gardening is the time when you can inspire a child with the magic that is so often a part of the gardening experience. One of those magical times will be when your moonflower produces its first bloom – a giant white flower (6-8 inches in diameter) with an intoxicating fragrance – late on a hot, sultry afternoon or early on a warm, humid evening in July. Vines will always be the types of plants that intrigue children and the 20 foot long moonflower vines are spectacular. The plants only bloom in the evening and the blossoms die back in the morning. The Moonflower plant is native to Central America where it is often found climbing the trunks of the Panama Rubber Tree. Perhaps the most unusual historical fact about the moonflower is that in ancient Mesoamerica the plant was used to help create rubber. The sulphur contained in moonflower sap when added to the sap of the quayule plant and the Castillaelastica tree will initiate chemical vulcanization and convert the sap into rubber. As early as 1600 BC,the Olmecs, a Native Central American culture produced rubber balls for their Mesoamerican ballgames using this vulcanization process. The Moonflower was introduced into American gardens during the 1700s. Its memorable fragrance, huge blossoms, odd bloom time and aggressive climbing habit quickly made it a favorite American cottage garden flower. I love this flower. For me, it would not be a summer night without the sweet fragrance of the moonflower. I have always grown it in containers – on a railing to a porch, along a fence or up a fan-shaped trellis. I can’t imagine a summer evening without the giant, graceful blossoms. Remember this container gardening project is best when executed with all three of these vining flowers.
Last Saturday I told those of you who teach children that I believed that childhood should be about fantasy and the fantastic and that children’s gardening should include both. I also believe that children’s gardening offers parents and school teachers the chance to provide children with an incredible learning experience and growing vining flowers with children is an excellent example.
The Flowering Vine, Cypress Vine
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Cypress Vine is an annual native to the tropical regions of North and South America and the Indian subcontinent. The plant was introduced into Europe during the 16th century and was known in Britain by the early 17th century. It never gained popularity in England because the cool British summers stymied its growth. Thomas Jefferson was the first to note its introduction to the US when he sent seed from Philadelphia to his daughters at Monticello in 1791. Joseph Breck in his 1851 book on American gardening, Breck’s Book of Flowers, describes the plant in loving terms stating,
“There is no annual climbing plant that exceedsthe Cypress Vine, in elegance of foliage, gracefulness of habit, or loveliness of flowers.”
A single vine may grow 8-10 feet in a season and produces inabundance tiny, trumpet-shaped, intensely red flowers. The leaves are feathery, delicate and deeply green. In this newsletter we have discussed several vining flowers and why they are great to grow with children. The Cypress Vine is a wonderful plant for even the youngest of children to grow by themselves. No child can avoid caressing the feathery foliage and all children are mesmerized by the hummingbirds which are constantly attracted to this vine. In fact, a common name for this vine is The Hummingbird Vine. Understanding the relationship between plants that attract pollinators and the pollinators themselves is a valuable lesson for a child. We hope you have been inspired to try some vining flowers this gardening season and that you will share this newsletter with your friends.
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