The Slipshod Gardener 6: Glory and Passion
Era of the Morning Glories
Clematis blooming along top rail
Morning glories, clematis and jasmine--oh my!
In the spring of 2008, a windfall allowed me to get a couple of mutts and several chain link panels to keep them from roaming the neighborhood. I was sensitive to the ugliness of chain link and from the start intended to cover it with vines. I also intended to thwart any digging by my dogs. These two goals complemented each other. I put concrete blocks around the interior edge of the kennel and filled the holes of the blocks with topsoil. I then sprinkled some morning glory seeds in the soil, ruffled it around a bit in typical slipshod manner, patted it down, watered and waited.
I didn’t wait long. Morning glories like to make a strong start. No sooner were my blocks full of eager seedlings than my mother cautioned me about my choice, scientific family convolvulaceae, which sounded enough like convulsion to warrant some internet research. I discovered it is toxic to dogs and cats but did not find any cases of fatalities. I decided to take the risk of letting them grow. The only negative effect over four years has been a cat who was woozy for one afternoon. Still, I’ll avoid morning glories for animal enclosures in the future.
Another problem with morning glories is that they shoot to the top of the fence, leaving the majority of it relatively bare. I also planted jasmine and clematis (also problematic for pets) that first year. Jasmine’s habit is similar to that of morning glories. It likes to mound on the fence top. Unlike morning glories, both jasmine and clematis are slow-growing. My clematis were in the ground for two years before they made a decent attempt to climb and bloom. My jasmine took three years to produce a decent cluster of blossoms.
Unphased by winter, the passion flower vine is poised to take over
Clematis and Passion flower get along beautifully
Southern fence completely covered
Passion Flower Vine
Three strikes and you’re out? Not so. I got passion flower bare root through a catalog and planted it unceremoniously directly into clay in the fall of 2009. Nipped before long by frost, it disappeared and I suspected it had died. No. It had merely sequestered itself to further flesh out its plan for world domination.
Its first summer, its growth was modest and largely vertical with only modest blooms. The morning glories, which had self-seeded, were still the Lords of the Fence.
By 2011, the passion flower had also seeded and was growing horizontally and vertically and rapidly. It had blanched a bit over the winter but hadn’t died back. The same was true the next winter so that this year, its third summer, the passion flower vines have nearly covered sixteen feet of six-foot high fence, climbed to the gutters, created a green curtain over one of my windows and have begun to crawl horizontally along the siding. This from a start of one root.
The passion flower vine blooms continuously, though the blooms aren’t obvious from a distance. Bees of all varieties love the flowers, so the vines are constantly full of frantic activity.
I was initially worried it would choke out the other vines, but they just treat it as additional scaffolding. This spring my passion flower vines sported a beautiful cascade of purple clematis and the clematis have made a less showy reappearance this fall. The jasmine had its best bloom yet and nothing stops the re-seeding morning glories.
So my fence is now a complete riot of vines, providing my dogs with privacy as they do their business and presenting a green wall to neighbors. Yes, I’ve got the fence thing figured out. Meanwhile my front yard remains a dicey arena of experimentation.