Shady Way Gardens Bits and Briefs April 2002


April showers bring May flowers!...Showers?..In April?..Here?? Not too likely.  April is the time to enjoy the winter annuals such as Petunia, Snapdragons, Lobelia, Alyssum etc. which will remain gloriously colorful even into June if it doesn't get too hot.  Pansy, Stock, Calendula, Viola will usually be pooped out in April.  It's too early to plant Vinca which requires warmer night temperatures to be happy.  Flowers that can be planted now include Cosmos, Marigold, Gomphrena, Celosia, Lisianthus, Coreopsis. Zinnias and Sunflowers do best when planted from seed as they need a large root system to sustain them through hot weather. Veggie seeds to be planted now include Squash, Melons, Pumpkins, Okra, Cucumbers, Gourds, Corn, Beans.  Put in plants of Pepper, Tomato, and Eggplant where they will receive afternoon shade.  Don't expect Tomatoes to set fruit when temperatures get into the 100's.


When people want to make a more friendly environment in the desert they often think of a nice. lush vine.  What people want in a vine and reality are two different things.  This is what everybody wants.  Everybody.  It's called Fantasy Vine and has the following characteristics: it totally obscures something you don't want to see (e.g. the guy next door), covers with lightning speed the area you want covered then stops growing, needs no water especially in summer, produces huge, fragrant, gorgeous flowers all year in your choice of colors and never makes a mess by dropping them, produces lush, shiny green leaves all year and never makes a mess by dropping them, goes where you want it to go without any supervision, has no painful objects like thorns attached , attracts no or only beneficial insects, is resistant to all diseases, will look fabulous in full sun, full shade and everywhere in between, needs no pruning except to remove the gorgeous, everlasting flowers for your vase, never freezes or burns, disappears without a trace if you get tired of it.  We do not carry Fantasy Vine.

Here's the scoop on some of the most commonly used real vines, which can also serve as large groundcovers.

BOUGAINVILLEA!  This is a love'em or hate'em plant.  Few sights can rival a huge, blazing Bougainvillea in full bloom.  they are spectacular and they are real!!  With shades of red, purple, pink, orange, gold and white the vines will grow in harsh conditions and cover hot walls and trellises.  They bloom best in full sun and with minimal water once established.  This is the love'em part.  The hate'em part is that they have wicked, killer thorns, drop masses of papery flower bracts which always gravitate to pools and crabby neighbor's yards, are fairly frost tender, and may get huge and rampant without pruning.  If you buy one be very careful not to disturb the roots when removing them from the can.  If possible, carefully cut away the can from the rootball.

PURPLE LILAC VINE (Hardenbergia violacea): This tough Australian native vine is quite drought resistant, has no thorns and is fairly lush looking.  It is frost tender, will grow in full sun, and needs to be tied to a support.  The purple or less often pink or white flowers are a one shot deal in early spring.

CAT'S CLAW VINE (Macfadyena unguis-cati): Belying it's name this vine has no thorns, but has tendrils that will cling to and climb up almost anything.  This is one of the vines you want for that hot south or west wall.  Although slow to start, it will eventually cover anything, and because of its underground tubers, once you've got it, you've got it.  Flowers are yellow and occur in spring.

HALL'S HONEYSUCKLE (Lonicera japonica):  Producing fragrant white flowers in spring and summer, this fast growing vine can become rampant or invasive in well watered areas.  It will ramble over almost anything and grow in almost any situation, but needs tying to a support to start.  If vines become woody, cut them back in late winter.

STAR JASMINE (Trachelospermum jasminoides): This is a slow growing vine with dark, glossy leaves and fragrant white flowers in spring.  It looks best in part shade and needs to be tied to a support.

CAROLINA JASMINE or JESSAMINE (Gelsemium sempervirens):  This open looking, moderately sized vine will grow in full sun or shade and produces fragrant, yellow flowers in spring.  It needs to be tied to a support.

SNAIL VINE (Vigna caracalla): This is a very fast growing vine that looks like a giant string bean plant.  It likes lots of water, full sun or part shade, and will rapidly cover a trellis or fence without any tying.  The light purple flowers occur all spring and summer.   A good frost will freeze it back to the ground.  It shall return.

PASSION VINE (Passiflora alatocaerulea):  This lush, tropical looking vine has clinging tendrils and interesting lavender flowers which appear in spring and summer.  It is somewhat frost tender, prefers good soil and protection from full summer sun.  Unfortunately for us Passion Vines attract butterflies that are seeking a gourmet delight for their young.  Some years hordes of caterpillars will chow down every leaf leaving you with a big bunch of worm doo and naked branches.

CREEPING FIG (Ficus repens):  Preferring a shady location to get started, this non-flowering vine will attach itself by rootlets and climb unaided up any masonry type wall.  It is slow to start but after many years will become a huge vine that can cover a whole building.  The rootlets are damaging to anything wooden.  The cute little leaves you see now are actually the juvenile form.  When the plant gets large enough, and if it is never trimmed back, it will eventually produce mature leaves that are much bigger and coarser than the young form.  Old vines even produce figgish fruits.

LADY BANK'S ROSE (Rosa banksiae):  This large, sprawling rose may be yellow flowered and have no thorns or white flowered and have some thorns.  It tolerates harsh conditions and full sun and will cover a fence, wall or structure if given support.  Shearing will keep the plant more dense and compact.  There is a famous plant in Tombstone that's purported to be the world's largest rose bush.  It flowers in late spring.

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Web Comments September 13, 2004 Shady Way Nursery 2004