Vining Around

Stagecoach Inn Sheffield MADriving around the lanes in the Berkshires on these languid golden late summer days, you can’t help but notice the robust vines, invited or interlopers!  This sweet autumn clematis (Clematis ternifora) is at a local in called The Stagecoach.  At one time the turnpike to Albany ran by its door.  Now visitors and locals tread this path to a delightful pub.

flowerflinging campers 2012Vines were on my mind last summer when I asked the flowerflinging campers to inaugurate the willow structure on my pergola.  Although it looks very sturdy from this angle, in truth it is not a happy structure, tending to lean towards the porch.

Unruly willow sourceMy goal was to cover this metal structure with a living willow woven living arbor, thus also reducing this overgrown willow from the front garden.

Stripped willow branchesThe willow branches were stripped of their leaves and most of their branches, leaving only some to weave in.

Rocks and more rocksA 12” strip of grass was removed at the base of the pergola and the dirt dug and mostly removed.  Compost and new topsoil was added.  These gigantic rocks had to be excavated from these long but tiny areas!!

Pergola Summer 2013The trench on each side was filled with white alliums of every variety happy to live in Zone 4b.  Between the allium was planted Ajuga ‘Black Scallop’.  Sadly this idea didn’t really come off.  When the white allium are in full spate, their somewhat ugly foliage hides the dark Ajuga thus defeating the combo. It is all designed to play off the fastigiate copper beeches in each side of the garden. O well, I tried to have my Russell Page moment.

Heads UpI was elated that many of the willow, which are merely driven into the amended soil, began to sprout in the Spring.  As they grow new branches, those are woven into the structure.  Black cable ties help keep them in place until things become more dense.  To carry the color scheme further, I planted 6 Hyacinth Bean vines (Lablab purpureus) an annual vine which has wound its way up to the top.

Hyacinth Bean VineThe brilliant purple and hot pink flowers turn into broad purple pea-like pods.  Most of the flowering is on top.  My kitchen window is even higher so it is a delight to look down on this but all too soon a frost will end this great pleasure.


About Susan

Susan Detjens is a former landscape painter, she lectures, demonstrates and runs workshops on floral design for museums, horticultural organizations and garden clubs across the US.
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