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“In a garden Nature is not to be her simple self, but is to be subject to man’s conditions, his choice, his rejection.”
                                                              — John Sedding. 

VINES are the draperies of the garden, and as much thought should be given to their choice and bestowal as to the hangings of a room. The wrong vine may mar an otherwise pleasant scene, and the right one will frequently quite redeem the commonplace. Architectural indiscretions and enormities may be buried and forgotten beneath a heavy covering of vines, and many a crude and unsightly object brought into harmony with its surroundings through the kindly tact of some gracious climbing plant. No need to emphasize the charm of vine-clad arbours and porches, of green-draped walls and gateways, which do so much toward giving to our gardens the appearance of permanence and livableness so much desired. But perhaps it is a little needful to speak of the fact that the chief factor in this charm is luxuriance, which may not be had without generous preparation of the spot the vine is to occupy.

Nearly all climbing plants require a rich soil to support the great top growth, and a deep and wide hole, well manured, should be prepared for their reception. Yearly enrichment should be given, and frequent cultivation of the soil around the vine will insure a freer growth. It is the part of wisdom to start the training of young climbing plants at a very tender age, for once let them have their own way for a season, and much cruel mutilation is necessary to bring them back to the paths of decorum. In many a situation, however, the vine may be allowed its own sweet will, and sweet indeed it is, when one observes the delightful manner in which Nature hangs her festoons of Virginia creeper, Woodbine, Bittersweet, and Clematis over stumps and fences, dead trees, and rocky hillsides; but when some special object is to be covered, no time should be lost in pointing out to the young vine the path it is to follow and seeing that it obeys. The matter of pruning is of importance, and is much better left entirely undone unless knowledge and experience guide the shears. Most vines may be safely left unpruned if doing well, but if in a weak condition may be cut hard back to induce a sturdier growth.

Maeterlinck says: “Though there be plants and flowers that are awkward and ungainly, there is none that is wholly without wisdom and ingenuity,” and it seems to me that climbing plants are gifted with a special intelligence. It is well known that all the twining vines twine in a given direction — that is, from left to right, or the opposite, and that it is not possible to persuade them to change their plans. It is remarkable, too, to see their different ways of getting up in the world, some by means of aerial rootlets, as the Ivy and Ampelopsis; some by little seeking tendrils that strongly grasp any available object, as the Clematis and Grape; some which twine themselves around a given support, as Honeysuckle and Wistaria, and others which throw themselves recklessly upon anything within their reach and demand a lift. To this class belong the Climbing Roses.

There are of course annual and perennial vines at our disposal, and while in the established garden there is little reason to employ the former, in new gardens they are indispensable to provide a little drapery while the permanent climbers are getting themselves settled and making a start.

Among annuals I must confess to a weakness for Morning Glories. Thoreau admitted a similar weakness when he wrote, “It always refreshes me to see it. . . I associate it with the holiest morning hours.” But Morning Glories have their faults, and a bad one is that they are apt to impose upon one’s hospitality. They appear to think that an invitation to spend a summer in your garden may be stretched to cover any number of summers, and back they come year after year with never so much as a “by your leave,” or “which plant may I use as a lift?”

I remember once in my early gardening experience being away for two months during the summer and finding, upon my return, the garden positively gasping for breath in the clutches of these unbidden guests. The moment my back was turned they had risen up all over the garden and climbed like acrobats up anything so unfortunate as to possess an upright stalk. It was crass outlawry, of course, and had to be ruthlessly dealt with, but in my heart I felt that beneath their dainty burden the smug Dahlias had acquired a grace quite foreign to them, and that the poor half-strangled Hollyhocks had never looked so lovely as when providing a trellis for these wantons, with their “fairy loops and rings.”

The Japanese have wrought magic upon the simple Morning Glory, and have created a race called Japanese Imperial, which will climb eight feet and hang out marvellously ruffled, scalloped, and fringed blossoms, in gorgeous shades and combinations, in great profusion. Copper, azure, crimson, rose colour, all are possible, and many boast a throat or markings of another tint. To insure quick germination the seeds of this climber may be notched, or soaked in warm water for a few hours before planting, and they may be started indoors in little pots for early flowering.

The ghostly Moon Vine, Ipomoea grandiflora, belongs to the same family as the foregoing. It makes a tremendous growth in a season, and this fact, with its luxuriant foliage, causes it to be in great demand for screening porches. The great white blossoms, open only at night, peer uncannily from the dusky shadows of the dark foliage with striking effect, but I do not like this great flower which cannot bear the sweet light of day. Another member of the family considered of merit is the beautiful Californian I. rubro caerulea, in its variety, “Heavenly Blue,” which must be started indoors, and when planted out given a warm and sheltered situation.

The Dolichos, or Hyacinth Bean, winds its way through Oriental poetry as the Woodbine and Jasmine through our own. It is a rapid climber, flowering vigorously, in erect spikes of purple or white pea-shaped flowers, from July until autumn. It requires a sunny situation and enjoys plentiful watering in summer. It may be started indoors, or planted out after the ground is well warmed by the May sunshine.

Coboea scandens is a popular annual climber. It is a rapid grower and bears in July numerous greenish-purple cup-and-saucer-like blossoms, which are rather artistic in their colouring. It enjoys a sunny position and a soil not very rich, and the seeds should be started indoors. I have been told that these should be placed edgewise in the pot, but I do not know if this is fact or tradition.

Members of the Hop and Gourd families provide satisfactory, quick-growing climbers. Trained over fences and arches the Hop is very graceful and luxuriant, and even the variegated form of Humulus Japonicus, the variety usually grown, is quite pretty.

Raising Gourds is very popular in my family, and a single package of mixed seed will frequently yield some very strange results. Some of the curious fruit is quite ornamental, but the vines are hardly suitable for planting save in out-of-the-way places. We start the seed indoors in small pots and transplant when danger from frost is past.

Adlumia cirrhosa, variously known as Allegheny Vine, Mountain Fringe, Climbing Fumatory, Wood Fringe, and Fairy Creeper, is a frail biennial vine which, however, blooms the first year from seed, of endearing qualities and beguiling grace. Mrs. Earl, in her charming “Old Time Gardens,” thinks that no garden is complete without it, “for its delicate green Rue-like leaves lie so gracefully on Stone and brick walls, or on fences, and it trails its slender tendrils so lightly over dull shrubs that are not flowering, beautifying them afresh with an alien, bloom of delicate little pinkish flowers like tiny bleeding hearts.” Given a rich, warm soil and a sunny exposure, this frail little climber will sometimes reach a height of twelve feet and throw itself about in an extravagance of airy festoons and garlands quite bewitching to see.

Last, but most important, are the two annual climbers most in use: the Nasturtium and the Sweet Pea. The former is too well known to need description and too entirely accommodating to require special treatment. There is nothing it will not do for you, from clothing with a garment of respectability the spot where the garbage receptacle reposes, to rejuvenating, with its vitality and brilliance, a dead tree or rotting stump. It is as proud to climb the netting around the chicken-yard as to scale the dizzy heights of fashion in the flower garden. Nasturtiums do best planted in a soil of very moderate richness. High living makes them run to great juicy stalks and luxuriant foliage, but few flowers.

The Sweet Pea is not quite so simple a proposition in our sun-baked American gardens, and though loveliest and most desired of annuals it is not often seen satisfactorily grown, at least in the Middle and Southern States. I think early planting is the main consideration, and to this end we prepare in the autumn a trench about ten inches deep. The ground has been previously deeply dug and enriched with well-rotted cow manure, and the seed is sown thinly at the bottom of the trench about the middle of March, and covered with about twc inches of soil. Later, when the little plants begin to grow, the earth is gradually filled in around them, until the trench is even with the surrounding surface and the shrinking roots buried deep in the cool earth, and safe from the burning rays of the summer sun. If the flowers are planted in the vegetable garden, or in some other inconspicuous place, a mulch of old stable litter or grass will further protect the roots and conserve the moisture, giving to those lovely blossoms a longer tenure of life, and in the flower garden, where the stable litter would be unsightly, a living mulch of some lightly rooted annual could be substituted. Frequent applications of liquid manure during the warm weather will greatly benefit the plants, and constant picking is the price of continued bloom. Strong pea-brush firmly inserted in the ground is a good support for the vines, or chicken wire, strongly staked to resist the wind. Each season brings forth many beautiful new Sweet Peas, so a list given now would soon be out of date, but of course the wonderful Orchid-flowered sorts and those known as “Spencer” or “Waved” are the best.

Of perennial vines none is more worthy of the choicest site in the garden and of our most intelligent attention than the Clematis. Indeed one might drape all one’s walls and arbours with the various species and varieties and be in no danger of monotony, or suffer from lack of bloom from May until frost. It is a great race, varied and beautiful, but not to be had, by any means, for the mere planting. It is not one of those plants which just grows; it demands the very best that is in us and in our gardens; it puts us on our mettle, it flouts and discourages us, it lures us on and sometimes it rewards us in a manner to turn the head of the sanest gardener.

Last summer, when the exquisite, exotic-looking Clematis Henryi ascended his trellis to the top of the garden-house roof, as nonchalantly as if it were his regular habit, and then hung out, in breathless succession, some fifty or sixty huge, gleaming white creations, I felt that my garden cup was spilling over at a great rate and that I must indeed be a master gardener. The fact that this summer, in the trenchant words of my assistant, “Henry up and died ongrateful” in the very flower of his good intentions, did not, to any great extent, dim the triumph of those wonderful weeks, for truly it was too great an experience to be vouchsafed one every summer.

Henryi belongs among what are called the “large-flowered hybrids,” of which there are a number of groups, each containing numerous varieties, and it is toward these that our desire and ambition turn, rather than toward the small-flowered, wild sorts, so useful and so much more amenable. The old purple C. Jackmani is the best known of the large-flowered Clematis and is one of the most easily managed. There is a superb vine here on the front porch which decks itself yearly in an imperial robe and seems to ask for no attention save a severe pruning in the early spring. The pruning of these plants is of great importance, and each group must be dealt with according to its needs. The following directions and descriptions are gleaned from authoritative writings on the Clematis, as well as from some experience in my own garden and observation in a great many gardens both here and in Great Britain.

The soil best enjoyed by the Clematis is light and rich, and of a loamy texture, with the addition of some chalk or lime. Good drainage is essential, but that in our country is not the problem that it is in England. An annual dose of well-rotted cow manure is needed by the large-flowered hybrids, and all sorts appreciate a warm blanket in the winter, not because they are tender so much as that the extra nourishment thus procured is beneficial and relieves the plants of the strain of our extreme cold. A mulch of stable litter is gratefully received after spring planting; this conserves the moisture until the plants are established and the roots go deep enough to avoid the heat of the sun. When growth starts in the spring the tender young shoots should be carefully looked after and gently tied to some support, for they are very brittle and easily injured, and as it is upon these shoots that many of the sorts bear their bloom they merit extra care. It has been discovered that some shade for the lower stems of the Clematis vine is essential to its well-being, and so it may well be planted at the back of herbaceous borders, to climb the wall or fence, or trail over the hedge, or be supported on tall pea-brush.

But even with all these precautions and attentions the large-flowered Clematis will often “up and die ongrateful,” and the reason for this, Mr. William Robinson believes, is that they are grafted upon unsuitable wild stock, instead of being raised from seed or layers; and that they are frequently the victims of a disease, bacterial in its nature, “which commences so insidiously that one only perceives its presence when too late.” Application of Bordeaux mixture is said to be a preventive, and also a “pinch of sulphur thrown at the foot of a plant after it has begun to grow, and renewed at intervals, is efficacious as a preservative from disease.” To those wishing to make a study of this most wonderful flower I would suggest Mr. Robinson’s sympathetic and helpful little book, “The Virgin’s Bower,” and “The Clematis,” by Moore and Jackman, now out of print, but procurable through dealers in old books. The large-flowered hybrids may all be termed slender climbers, and some of them reach a considerable height.

The Jackmani Group. Enormously free flowering in early July and thereafter occasionally through the summer. Flowers on new shoots. Prune hard back in late autumn (November) or early spring. A splendid vine for trellises, porches, and arches.

Fine varieties: Jackmani superba, large royal purple; Jackmani alba, pure white; Madame Baron-Veillard, very free, satiny mauve-pink; Gypsy Queen, reddish-purple.

Viticella Group. Blooms freely all summer from July and is perhaps the most reliable of the large-flowered kinds. Flowers on new shoots. Prune rather sharply in late November. Perfectly hardy. Flowers not so large as lanuginosa but more numerous.

Fine varieties: Kermesina, clear reddish-mauve, very free; Grandiflora punicea, wine-red; Viticella, bluish purple; Alba, gray, white.

Lanuginosa Group. Enormous flowers borne successionally through summer and autumn. Flowers on new wood. In pruning remove weak shoots and dead wood in spring. Beautiful vine for trellis or post.

Fine varieties: Beauty of Worcester, violet-blue; Lady Caroline Neville, plum; Madame Van Houtte, white; Marcel Moser, soft lilac with reddish band; Henryi, pure white.

Florida Group. Flowers on old wood. Prune directly after flowering by removing seed vessels and cutting out useless or crowded shoots. Blooms in summer. Double.

Fine varieties: Belle of Woking, silver-gray; Duchess of Edinburgh, pure white.

Patens Group. Flowers on old wood and requires same treatment as Florida. Spring and summer. Large and showy.

Fine varieties: Nellie Koster, rosy-mauve; Miss Bateman, pure white; Mrs. Geo. Jackman, satiny white with ivory bar; Sir Garnet Wolseley, dull blue with reddish band.

Clematis coccinea. Dies to the ground in winter, so needs no pruning. Flowers in July and August. Scarlet, urn-shaped blossoms. Very gay and effective. Easily grown sort, and charming for posts, arches, or for trailing over shrubs and balustrades. Easily raised from seed. There are hybrids of this form, but I have not seen them.

The small-flowered forms of the Clematis are not by any means to be neglected, for these are among the most generous and charming of climbers and seldom oppose any obstacle to our desires. Much more luxuriant than the large-flowered hybrids, they are splendid for porches, pergolas, and walls, dead trees, or for any position where a vigorous climber is required. C. montana climbs to a great height and decorates itself in May with yard-long garlands of anemone-like bloom, white with hints of pink and a pleasant fragrance. There is a reddish form of montana, more lately introduced, which is said to be extremely beautiful, and grandiflora has flowers much larger than the type. To prune montana cut away the weak, straggling, or overcrowded branches in late March, and carefully train the long year-old wood at full length to cover the desired space.

C. paniculata, the vigorous Japanese climber with masses of creamy bloom in August and September, is well known and useful. C. vitalba is another fluffy, white-flowered sort and a high climber. C. flammula and C. f. var. rubra bear, respectively, clusters of small white and purple flowers, deliciously scented, in August and September. Our own native Traveller’s Joy, C. virginica, is too well known to need description. It is quite worthy a place in the garden, and nothing is more softly lovely for trailing over rough banks, rocks, or low fences. All these sorts need no pruning save the removal of overcrowded branches, or useless shoots, and any good garden soil and a sunny situation inspires them to do their best.

Honeysuckles are endeared to us by long years of companionship, by the wayside and in the garden. One cannot imagine a garden without them, though Bacon, in his well-known essay “Of Gardens,” in giving a list of plants proper for a garden, while including Honey-suckles, adds, “so they be somewhat afar off.” What could there be in Honeysuckles, “ripened by the sun,” that one would not want right under one’s nose? Truly the great man had his idiosyncrasies! For all its scrambling ways the Honeysuckle seems the most domestic of vines — to belong to cottage doorways, time living-room windows, or the favourite corner of the porch, and its delicious perfume, which Maeterlinck called the “soul of dew,” wafted to us in our country walks and drives seems ever to proclaim a home.

Hall’s variety is a very good, almost evergreen Honeysuckle, which blooms from June until freezing weather and is a strong, rapid climber. Lonicera periclymenum is a favourite variety, and its reddish, fragrant blossoms are freely produced. I have not found that it grows quite so tall as Hall’s but it is useful in many situations. This is the “woodbine” of poetry. Lonicera japonica var. aurea is the golden-leaved sort, seldom seen to advantage, as its foliage is too striking for indiscriminate use, but which is very attractive used with white-flowered climbing Roses or other white-flowered climbers and with plants of harmonious colouring near at hand. There are many sorts of Honeysuckle, but these three, with the old trumpet or coral Honeysuckle, L. sempervirens, ever a source of pride in old gardens, are enough for much enjoyment. These sweet and patient vines will stand more neglect than any others, will grow in dry, shady places, in stony ground, or in rough grass, but will eloquently respond to good living and a comfortable situation.

Probably of all flowering climbers the Wistaria provokes the most ardent admiration. The Chinese Wistaria is the best and strongest for our climate, but the Japanese sort, W. multijuga, which the Japanese grow along the eaves of their houses, allowing the superb blossoms to form a fringe sometimes a yard deep, is a splendid variety and well worth a trial. Both have white varieties, which, if anything, are lovelier than the purple, but it is more satisfying to have both. The Chinese and Japanese Wistarias bloom in May, and there is a sort, American, I think, W. speciosa, which flowers in June and July. But this plant is only useful where a succession is desired, as it is not nearly so fine.

Wistarias are heavy feeders; indeed, it would be difficult to provide a too rich diet for them, and to this end it is a good plan to trench the soil at least three feet deep, filling the hole with a mixture of good garden soil and well-rotted stable manure. In the matter of pruning and training I quote Mr. Wm. McCollom’s valuable book on vines: “If a Wistaria has been growing undisturbed for a few years, you will find that it has a large percentage of long, thin, wiry shoots. These do not produce flowers and should be removed at any time of the year. The short, stumpy spurs are the kind that flower, and to produce these the plants should be pruned back to within two or three eyes of the flowers immediately after they fall. The aim always should be to keep one good shoot coming on each season, to provide room for it cut one of the oldest shoots out entirely. If you desire the plant to attain a great height, keep one of the shoots growing until it has reached the height desired, when it can be spurred in to produce flowers. ‘Spurring’ is clipping off the top and cutting the laterals close to the main stem.” No finer climber exists for pergolas, walls, or porches than the Wistaria, and its period of bloom is ever a ‘delight.

A vine of great vigour and pertinacity is Tecoma radicans, better known as the Trumpet Creeper. By the way, the most recent authorities give Campsis as the correct name instead of Tecoma. It is a bold climber, which south of New Jersey decorates the woods and roadsides in a wild state and which, Miss Loundsberry says, has become a troublesome weed in parts of the west, very difficult to eradicate, but how splendid must be the wastes illumined by its vivid bloom.

It climbs by means of aerial rootlets and will cling to wood or stone, which makes it valuable for covering buildings, as there is no trouble in fastening it up, but it is a great, tumbling, boisterous thing, fitter to climb the walls of the stables or outbuildings than of the dwelling. For pergola and trellis it is a bit too free and energetic, but for positions where a bold, striking effect is desired there is nothing better. Its orange-scarlet flowers are borne in August and seem a fitting introduction to the ruddy tints so soon to prevail. Any necessary pruning should be done in spring, as the flowers form on the new wood. If given a rich soil and a sunny situation the vine is capable of a height of forty feet. The Chinese Tecoma grandiflora with its variety atrosanguinea are better in most ways than T. radicans.

A slender climber, very dear to me from long association, is Akebia quinata. I think I have never seen it in any garden save my own and the garden of my childhood. There it formed, in its luxuriance, a deep reveal around the library windows, and in spring rendered the room almost untenable with its clouds of warm perfume. This was a very old vine, for the Akebia is a slender thing, and the cushion-like growth that I remember must have been the result of many years. This climber is a Japanese, and Donald McDonald, in his book of “Fragrant Flowers and Leaves,” says that it is much used in decorating eastern gardens. The foliage is small and very pretty, and the little three-cornered, brownish-plum coloured blossoms, which cover the vine, literally from top to toe, are quaint and pretty and deliciously sweet. Here it very delightfully veils one end of the garden-house porch, and blooms about the first of May. English garden books frequently refer to the Akebia as not quite hardy, but certainly here it has proved itself quite equal to the New York winters. A light, rich soil is its preference, and it will grow in partial shade. It needs no pruning, save an occasional shortening of the long branches to encourage growth at the bottom, for this slender thing is apt to hurry to the top of its trellis and then fling itself about in an abandon of wreaths and garlands, quite unmindful of the neediness of its lower limbs.

Actinidia arguta is another Japanese vine not often seen.  It is of twining habit and bears little clusters of ivory-coloured blossoms with black anthers, and the foliage is dark and fine.  It loves a sunny situation, and after the first two years, when the plant is thoroughly established, may be cut back about half in early spring to keep it in good and full condition.

An old friend is the Matrimony Vine, Lycium chinensis, but not so valued but what one may easily do without it.  Its red berries are attractive, but the blossoms are unimportant and the foliage too prone to mildew; and altogether I should choose something else.

Aristolochia sipho is a climber that I frankly dislike, though my feeling is not shared by many, for I frequently see it on porches, annihilating sunshine and air, but forming an effective screen. Its leaves are large and its growth dense, and the curious chocolate-coloured blossoms somewhat resemble a pipe in shape, hence the name, Dutchman’s Pipe.

A vine of fairly recent introduction and one of real value, it seems to me, is Polygonum baishuanicum, a slender climber, with masses of filmy white flowers in the late summer. It makes a fairly heavy growth and is a good climber for trellises and porches.

Of vines grown largely for their foliage none is so fine as the English Ivy, “the vine of glossy sprout,” and contrary to the suspicions of many we may have it in a good deal of luxuriance in this country if a little courtesy is extended to it. In the first place, we impatient Americans must be patient with the British deliberateness of the Ivy. For two years after planting, and sometimes three, it will do nothing but survey the situation and venture a leaf or two, but after that given time, good soil, and a north wall it will start a steady ascent and very soon present a broad and beautiful surface of dark and shining green. Mr. McCollom recommends protecting the young plants in winter for a few years with a mulch of manure and a screen of evergreen branches. Sometimes the leaves become brown and dry in winter, but those may be rubbed off and the vine will reclothe itself in a short time. Of course the Ivy is not the vine for all situations in our country, a southern exposure being very trying to it, but wherever a close, green covering is desired and it is possible to establish the Ivy the result will more than justify the trouble and waiting.

We are much too quick to plant the accommodating Ampelopsis Veitchii, which, while one of the most useful of vines, is much too rampant and pervasive a subject for many situations. There are several species of Ampelopsis besides Veitchii. There are two varieties growing here, purpurea, and robusta, but I can see little difference between these and Veitchii, in fact I cannot tell the one from the other. Its fine autumn colouring is the chief charm of this vine and in this it is outclassed by its relative, the Virginia Creeper (Ampelopsis quinquefolia), overlooked perhaps in summer, but claiming the admiration of all in autumn, when every low wall in the countryside has its burning tangle and high in the branches of many a tree Nature’s signal fires flash forth. It is a graceful, headlong vine, clinging closely, then hanging in great, loose festoons, and ever impatient of restraint. Any hint from us in the way of cleats or binding cords is not respectfully received; indeed, will probably not be noticed at all, for the Virginia Creeper will swing, or wave or cling or creep as the notion takes it, and perhaps it is this wayward quality which makes it a beloved thing.

Another native which endures garden life with equanimity is Celastrus scandens, the Bittersweet, the chief glory of which is the gay scarlet berries that remain upon it all winter long and create a bit of cheer in the white winter garden. It will grow in sun or shade, and takes kindly to any lift offered for its upward journey.

Euonymus radicans is a good evergreen vine, where great height is not required, for it seldom goes higher than eight feet and is pretty deliberate in getting that far. For low walls it is excellent, and the variegated form is pretty used in many situations. When one reads such a book as Mr. McCollom’s “Vines,” one realizes the great number of climbers in existence and the few in general cultivation. My own list is a slender one, but all these, unless otherwise stated, are both willing and lovely, and whatever, other climbers are lacking these should be in every garden.

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