The first part of this series, ‘Landscaping with vines’, outlined how vines can be used for a range of landscaping solutions. Now, let us look at creepers and how and where you could grow them. They are easy to grow, will thrive in garden soil and require no special care except that they will need to be trained up or across the spaces you want covered. Unless otherwise specified, creepers can be planted in large containers.
From the viewpoint of landscaping, flowering vines fall roughly into two categories: those with flowers growing close to the stem and those with flowers that hang down in clusters or streamers. The first type are best suited for growing on vertical trellises as screens or on pillars as columns; the second are best allowed to spread horizontally overhead across a roofing mesh, so that the flowers can hang down .
Vines for vertical spaces: Two easy-to-grow vines that can be planted either in the ground or in large containers are Thunbergia alata, or black-eyed susan, and Thunbergia fragrans. The first is a fast-growing annual with orange-yellow flowers, 1-inch across, which can turn an ugly drainpipe or other unsightly fixture into a lovely flower column. You will need to train it up the pipe, tying with string at intervals. The second is perennial with white flowers that will show off well as a screen.
Red passion flower ( Passiflora coccinea) with its red blooms can make a dramatic flower wall if you train it across a vertical trellis. It is best to plant this in the ground as it is a heavy, dense creeper, and will need strong support. One of the prettiest of tropical vines is Jacquemontia violacea , whose azure-blue flowers appear all year round. A light creeper, it is equally well-suited for a balcony trellis, a garden fence, or an embankment cover.
All the Ipomoea, or morning glory, species are beautiful, with large flowers, freely produced, and altogether satisfying to grow. Most are annuals, needing to be re-sown each season; for example, “Heavenly blue,” “Scarlett O’Hara,” and moonflower (a fragrant, white night-bloomer); a few, such as I. horsfalliae, with clusters of magenta flowers, are perennial.
Vines for horizontal spaces: Vines that have long streamers of flowers that hang down are best suited for covering horizontal spaces. Cool a concreted area by roofing it with chicken wire or other mesh and training a vine across it. Pitch the mesh high enough to allow sitting space below the flower strands. Mysore clock vine ( Thunbergia mysorensis ), with streamers of orange and yellow flowers, blooms in spectacular profusion from September to March; so does Thunbergia coccinea with smaller coral colored flowers.
Duck flower ( Aristolochia elegans ) makes quite a conversation piece with its heart-shaped leaves and striking pale green flowers with chocolaty-purple splotches. The flowers are really duck-shaped, and if you train the plant across a horizontal space, the open flower and buds look like a flock—mother duck and row of ducklings all hanging by their beaks from the stem.
Jade vine ( Strongylodon macrobotrys), a heavy vine that should be planted in the ground, has dramatic 3-foot-long streamers of curved, turquoise-coloured flowers. A relative newcomer into Bangalore, it is still quite rare (and expensive!), but if you have the space to accommodate it, the effort is definitely worth it.
Foliage vines make good additions to your landscape, serving as a foil to the brightly-coloured flowering plants. They are especially useful where you need screens for privacy or for shade. Asparagus plumosus has delicate, fern-like foliage; the leaves last several days in cut-flower arrangements. Asparagus racemosus bears clouds of tiny white flowers and bright red berries; since it sheds all its needle-like leaves in winter, it’s a good choice for areas where you want shade and winter sun. Both species of Asparagus have thorns. Piper crocatum , a species of pepper vine (but without the edible berries) has betel-leaf-shaped, grey-green leaves with silver markings. Use it to frame a window or cover a wall.
Many vines with edible fruit or leaves can also make attractive landscape elements. All bean varieties have pretty flowers as well as edible pods; all squash family plants (pumpkin, snake gourds, bottle gourd, etc.) also have lovely flowers and edible fruits. Malabar spinach ( Basella alba, B.rubra, or basale soppu in Kannada ) comes in green-stemmed and red-stemmed varieties whose leaves and tender stems are both tasty and nutritious. Not only the fruits of thondekai (Trichosanthes dioica) but also the three-lobed leaves are edible, and the vine has pretty white flowers as well.
Vines are easy to grow, will thrive in garden soil and require no special care except that they need to be trained