Vines offer fine coverup

Do you have a crumbling wall, an unsightly fence, an ugly shed or an empty trellis? There is a quick solution to the problem that can be as permanent or as temporary as you wish.

Plant an annual vine. These vines will grow tall and cover a wide space in just one year, from planting in late spring, blooming in summer, many of them changing color in fall, and then dying back in winter.

Then, you can decide whether you are satisfied with the vine and plan to replant one next spring or simply pull out the dead material and try something else next year.

I have tried a lot of vines in my time, and I keep going back to a few favorites. There were some spectacular failures along the way, most memorably the hops I grew three years ago which have decided to be my forever friend and keep sending unwelcome shoots in places far removed from the original home. It was a nice-looking feature, but grew too tall too soon and, as it spiraled up to and through the gutters and downspouts, it also invaded two nice butterfly bushes and attempted to strangle them.

My favorite vine is Morning Glory. I have tried many colors and forms, plain and variegated, single and double, and I favor a mix. It is self-seeding and many shoots will appear in late spring, although there is a weed with remarkably similar leaves. I let them all grow together for a while until the weed puts out small flower buds and can be readily identified and pulled out.

If you are sowing seeds, soak them overnight or notch with a sharp knife before planting to aid germination. I grow the Morning Glory over an arbor across from my back door, and it is a welcome sight from mid-summer on with a multitude of bright flowers every morning.

Another favorite is the hyacinth bean vine, also known as lablab, which grows quickly once it germinates. The dark green, glossy leaves on purple stems show off the pink, pealike flowers which are followed by purple pods filled with striking black-and-white striped seeds. The vining stems are thick and fleshy, requiring a sharp knife or pruners to dispose of them in late fall.

Moonflower is attractive, but it has a couple of drawbacks.

First, the seed is hard and needs a good soaking followed by nicking or scoring in order to germinate. Even then, it is not a sure thing, so start with several seeds for every one you hope to grow and plant them directly into the ground. Then another problem may be you never see it in bloom. This vine opens its blossoms at sundown and, if you plant it away from a convenient window, you will have to go out in the evening to see it.

If this is acceptable for you, it is a beautiful plant, and growing on a fence around a patio will quickly cover the structure. Water only in dry situations and do not fertilize.

Another possibility is the black-eyed Susan vine which until a few years ago had yellow flowers with a black center, but now is obtainable as Blushing Susie or other trade names that produce blossoms in shades of pink. I love these, and use them on trellises beside my garage door every year.

This spring, my seeds did not germinate, so I will have to buy plants. The yellow variety is readily available, but you may have to search for other colors.

By all means try out some of these vines before you make a lifetime commitment to a perennial climber such as ivy, wisteria, trumpet vine or silver fleece. They are attractive, grow quickly and are easy to replace if you are not happy with them.

Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program. Contact her at