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Climbers Give Dimension To Your Outdoor Rooms
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
There was something about the recent Garden and Patio Show in Jackson that really surprised me. Gardener after gardener was walking out of the show carrying a trellis, tower and even arbors. Climbing plants are back in business.
Sure there are those with cottage-style gardens where climbers have always been popular. But there is a new group out there with modern new homes who are building flower borders and incorporating vertical growing. Once you start growing upwards, it is kind of like you have arrived. Your neighbors begin to suspect you, that weekend when you were suppose to be at grandma's you were really at a landscape design seminar that cost a pretty penny.
I admit too that I walked out of the Garden and Patio Show with a tower as a present to my wife, Jan. Before I could give her some of my horticultural advice, she had clematis already twining around it. I guess she must have gone to that seminar.
The clematis is a great choice for climbing, as is the Tangerine Beauty crossvine. We planted it at our Truck Crops Experiment Station three years ago as part of our Mississippi Medallion trials. This year, it had bordered on the spectacular. The orange trumpet-shaped flowers number in the thousands. Best of all, it has pretty much done its thing without any close supervision from us.
Crossvine is known botanically as Bignonia caprelota. It is easy to grow and is evergreen to semi-evergreen with attractive foliage and wonderful flowers.
Another great climber that is always the talk of the fall field day is the hyacinth bean, formerly known as Dolichos lablab is now Lablab purpureus. When you see it in October, it is hard to believe that it is planted by seed each year. The flowers are gorgeous, the seedpods are an awesome purple velvet color, and the beans are edible.
Climbing roses are much more sought after than 10 years ago. The variety New Dawn is considered one of the best. Climbers like the old red Blaze growing on a trellis is hard to beat. Several of David Austin's English roses can be trained as climbers. Good choices are Graham Thomas, Abraham Darby and Evelyn. Roses don't actually climb like hyacinth bean or cross vine but are tied and trained.
One of the prettiest climbers is a tropical called the mandevilla that stays in bloom almost the entire growing season. The mandevilla is one of those groups of plants where taxonomists have been tinkering with their names in recent years. Couple that with new introductions and it is confusing whether you are buying a mandevilla, allamanda or dipladenia.
This plant is known as Brazilian Jasmine. Two popular selections are Mandevilla splendens and Mandevilla x Alice du Pont. Both are vines and are prolific summer bloomers. They have pretty dark green lustrous leaves and large funnel-form, pink flowers.
They are not the least bit cold tolerant but are so vigorous and bloom so profusely they are worth growing in the landscape as an annual or containerized and holding through the winter.
The allamanda doesn't climb like the mandevilla but can be trained on a trellis. It is one of the most common flowers of the tropics with large, yellow, bell-shaped flowers. The flowers last several days and are produced all summer. It is best to grow as an annual in the landscape or containerized where you can protect it during the winter.
Just as you add a picture or mirror on a wall in the living room a climber gives that sense of depth and dimension to your flower border outside. Once you do this your landscape become as series of outdoor rooms.