2014-04-24 / From The Garden

Divine Vines Offer Beauty All Season

By Cynthia Gibson


“Grandpa Ott” morning glories climb a fence. “Grandpa Ott” morning glories climb a fence. Growing colorful, floriferous vines is somewhat foolproof and gives lasting summer color to gardens, outside walls, or trellises.

Perennial selections such as clematis give a burst of color in early summer and then a lesser display in the fall. The cost of clematis starts at $15 and goes up from there; however, as with most perennials, a more exotic and rare breed will cost more. When deciding what to spend, remember that this fabulous plant keeps on giving year after year.

There are three types of clematis. The early flowering group blooms on old wood only. They should be pruned in late fall if necessary. The second large-flowered group blooms on old wood in the spring and new wood in the fall. Lateblooming breeds produce blossoms only on new wood.

Clematis grows easily in Rhode Island’s gardening zone, but some strains can be quite a commitment. Since some varieties can be finicky and demanding, it may be better to stick with those that grow easily. For example, a good choice is the late-blooming Japanese clematis named “Roguchi.” A perfect entry for the Newport Flower Show, it is a deep indigo blue and bell-shaped. This plant detests mulch, but likes a bit of fertilizer. It dies back to the ground every winter, but surprises the gardener with new robust growth every spring. It is a fast grower. One Roguchi can spread over a five-by-ten-foot trellis in three years, offering a breathtaking wall of blooms.


“Rebecca” clematis. “Rebecca” clematis. “Alabast” is a greenish-white clematis with huge flowers, at least the size of a bread-and-butter plate. These plants need mulch in the fall and do best in a bit of shade. Many of the most dramatic and stunning varieties are largeflowered.

“Sieboldiana” is bright white, with a distinct deep purple center, while “Rebecca” is a bright crimson red. “Clematis Blue Light” is a lovely periwinkle blue double flower that boasts a five-inch diameter. The large blooms may require support by a trellis.


Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. There are also many lovely examples of the early flowering clematis. “Nellie Moser” is a standard oldiebut goodie and delivers a reliably good show. One of the most spectacular breeds on Aquidneck Island is “Montana Rubens.” It blooms profusely and can easily cover a ninefoot fence in three to four years. Its vanilla fragrance emanates from flowers with only four petals, making it look like a pink dogwood. This heavenly-scented and abundant variety gets high marks and is a no-fail option for anyone to grow.

A discussion of flowering vines should always mention the everlovely morning glory. Sowing these seeds in early May will mean popping blooms all summer and into October.

Nowadays morning glories are found in unbelievable shapes and colors, beyond the traditional “Heavenly Blue” favorites that spring open with each new day.

A unique morning glory is the “Carnevale di Venezia.” These bright striped pinwheels of various shades of pink, purple and blue will simply make you happy. There are some stunning red varieties as well, such as the “Scarlett O’Hara” and “Crimson Rambler.” In addition to displaying a pageant of fabulous color, the blooms will bring hummingbirds to your yard.

“Grandpa Ott” is an incredible heirloom variety that is bright blue with a deep purple to hot pink star in the center. It is simply a showstopper! Not to be left out, the “Moon Flower” has an enchanting fragrance whose huge white blossoms open in the evening. Adding this breed to the mix will keep the flowers going day and night.

Morning glories in our zone grow as annuals. They do not tolerate frost and freezing weather. They can be grown either in the ground or in large pots, but remember to water those pots generously so that the plants will not dry out and weaken.

All vines need a support system. You can purchase a pre-fab trellis in standard sizes at a local hardware store or big box retailer. You can add a coat of paint or leave them in their natural wood, which will fade to a silvery-beige hue by the end of summer.

Should you prefer a custom trellis, Bill’s Sales in Portsmouth sells the best trellises on Aquidneck Island. The staff even makes house calls to take measurements. Again, like a packet of seeds or a perennial, you will get what you pay for.

Taking on the task of making a homemade trellis, however, is probably the most satisfying. If you have the time, you can make a charming, rustic-looking trellis or pyramid-shaped tuteur. Pine, willow, oak and hickory are the best woods to use. Your own creative designs will inspire unique garden architecture for your clematis or morning glories. Keep your trellis needs in mind and claim some wood when friends cut down trees or clear limbs after a storm.

Flowering vines are maintenance free and make for spectacular backdrops among your outdoor favorites. From the old-fashioned “Heavenly Blue” morning glory to the more exotic types of clematis, vines are staples of the garden. They shape a space with summertime color and beauty.

Return to top