Ivies and Creeping fig have an interesting and alarming growth pattern. They creep along for a few years, nicely covering a structure with their delicate tracery of foliage. Aren't babies cute? Then they hit viney puberty, and hormones kick in (literally--plants have hormones, too). Suddenly the new growth is much larger, they become rampant, and they start flowering and (especially in the case of ivy) fruiting. They become unmanageable landscape nuisances. Algerian ivy is probably the worst, with large leaves and a very invasive habit. It can be useful as a ground cover in difficult shady situations, but it will engulf trees, fences, and sheds, and removal is very labor-intensive (contact the UCD rowing team for best results
Shrubby vines are large sprawling plants which can get to considerable size, but which don't hold themselves up. They must be tied to an upright support, or they will simply become ground covers. Most then develop sturdy, woody stems and can develop quite a bit of mass and weight. So give them a strong support, and plan on whacking them back every so often. In most cases a hard pruning can be done just after they bloom, but it's wise to ask before you start butchering them. These are some of our showiest vines.
Examples: Bougainvillea, Cape honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis), Lady Banks rose (Rosa banksia), Primrose jasmine (Jasminum mesnyi, the yellow vine all around Toomey Field).
The other way to categorize them is by cold-tolerance: are these guys hot house flowers? Or rugged lumberjacks?
Subtropical vines give very showy flowers over a long period in the summer, but many look bad -- sometimes very bad -- in the winter. Even if they're listed as evergreens, the foliage will be damaged on a normal frosty night. The tops may even be killed partially, or all the way to the ground. So use them where the long summer bloom can be appreciated, but where they won't be visible from a window during the winter.
Our cold winters, though, make some of these useful here, while they would be rampant in areas where their growth isn't checked by freeze damage. The perennial morning glory, Ipomoea acuminata, is an invasive nuisance in coastal areas and southern California, but a manageable 12 - 15' vine here. Likewise some of the Passion flowers, and tasty fruit can be a nice bonus from some of these.
Too tender to grow here: Arabian or 'true' jasmine (Jasminum sambac, the pikake of Hawai'i), Coral vine (Antigonon), many Trumpet vines.
Usually damaged badly, but recover (will need pruning): Bougainvillea, some Passionflowers, Purple potato vine (Lycianthes rantonetti), some Trumpet vines.
Mostly cosmetic damage: White potato vine (Solanum jasminoides), Bower vine (Pandorea).
Hardy vines tend to have a shorter bloom season, usually in the spring. Sometimes the bloom is as short as a week or so, but it can be very spectacular. In fact, some of our showiest vines bloom for the shortest period: Lady Banks' rose is a mass of white or yellow flowers right now. And who can resist the fragrance of a Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), the soft lavender vine which started blooming last week? There are also white and pink forms of Wisteria, and the Japanese species (W. floribunda) blooms for a longer period.
The ubiquitous Star jasmine is a hardy vine which blooms in May and early June, with powerful (some would say overwhelming) fragrance. Honeysuckles are also fragrant, hardy vines, and are unusual in having a long summer bloom. The hardy Trumpet vines (Campsis) are also the most rampant, but they are really showy and hummingbirds do love them.
Clematis are a special, spectacular, and diverse group. Most are deciduous, though the evergreen Clematis armandii just finished blooming. Most need protection from hot sun, but C. montana is heat tolerant. All prefer soil that has been enriched with compost, and even moisture. Some bloom on new growth, so they can be cut to the ground in the winter for size control. But C. montana, and some others, bloom on last year's growth--so you'd be cutting off the flowers! One of the best ways to grow Clematis is as nature does it: up on another shrub or vine, where the wispy foliage blends with the other plant and the showy flowers can take you by surprise.
Finally, there are the annual vines--plants we grow from seed to cover a fence, which bloom all summer and then die at the end of the season. These include annual forms of Morning glory (Ipomoea -- careful! Reseeds like crazy!) and the related Moonflower and Cardinal creeper. Scarlet runner beans have showy flowers and edible beans. Nasturtiums can grow on a trellis with a little guidance, and have edible flowers. Sweet peas are an exception to the season, growing in the winter and blooming in the spring before dying from summer heat. All the annual vines are very easy to grow, can be fun planting projects for kids, and require only a light support such as a trellis or a teepee made from bamboo poles.
I guess these would be the 'one-night stands' of the vine world? Ok, I'll stop reading Cosmo Girl and go back to the tabloids. Next month: Brad Pitt Seen With Alien Shrub!