Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Pergolas and vines add emotion to any yard, and nourishing vines can be doubly rewarding

I’m a sucker for a good pergola. I was at a wedding this season at a golf course where a simple concrete pad was enhanced by a sea of leafy green oak trees, setting the backdrop for an understated, slightly worn wooden pergola where the pair would meet. The pergola had the subtle hint of a vine slouching atop and hugging its sides. The romantic effect is instantaneous with a climbing vine devoting itself to a structure which in turn supports its weight – and it’s not exclusive to weddings. A good wooden arch to invite someone in to your outdoor haven, or the privacy of a partial enclosure like a pergola, tells visitors they’ve entered into somewhere great, somewhere romantic, and somewhere well considered.
ClematisThe delicate flowers on a clematis vine add an emotional statement to any yard – and you can choose exactly what impact you want to make. It’s a genus of 300 species and there is almost every colour of flower imaginable to choose from. Yellow, lilac, burgundy and magenta are some great bold, seasonal pops of colour to consider for your archway. The smaller-flowered variety has a strong impact with its neatly spaced florals. Clematis needs to be supported by a trellis or archway, but can be trained to drape over rocks, stumps or other shrubbery if you have the patience. It likes to keep its feet cool, so generally, it needs to be planted six to eight inches deeper in the ground than most other vines. Clematis are, however, hardy perennials, so you can expect its drama to strike you each year. Generally, in colder parts of the country, clematis die back in winter and grow from the ground each spring, but in some of the higher zones or where there is a good warm micro climate, the vine will stay viable right to its ends. Now, on to the vines that nurture you in more ways than one.
Clematis alpina ‘Willy’.
Nourishing vines Scarlet runner beans grow on vines and offer you protein-filled beans along with sweet pockets of bright scarlet coloured petals.  They are one of few beans grown for their beauty, but even their starchy roots and young leaves can be eaten along with their fruit. They are also perennials, though unless their roots are protected from frost over winter, they won’t reappear in this part of the world. They also depend on pollinators, which means you will be inviting a buzz of activity along with them: hummingbirds, bees and the like. Scarlet flowers, like scarlet women, are showy and perhaps more dramatic than their sweet little annual cousins: sweet peas. Sweet peas add an enchanting and soft flower to a more ethereal garden.  Other edible vines picking up steam in Canada are the growing varieties of cold-hardy grapes available and – believe it or not – kiwi vines. Smooth-skinned kiwi vines are available at a handful of nurseries – they will not grow to the size of fruit you’re used to, nor have the fuzzy skin, but will be more like the size of a large grape and just as sweet. The decorative Arctic Beauty kiwi vine is available in some garden centres. Its unique foliage that appears to be haphazardly dipped in pink and silver paint creates a stimulating visual. It requires a male and female plant to be planted about 10 feet apart and requires quite a load of space overall. It may take approximately three years to grow fruit, however.
Scarlet runner bean flower.
Arctic Beauty kiwi.
HopsAnd then, with perhaps some of the best harvesting potential, there are hops, both useful if you want to start a home brewing business, or just to find an attractive way to provide privacy over a fence in your yard, as with Virginia creepers or ivy. A fast-growing perennial, the female hops vine is the one that produces those cones that add the hops to your favourite lager. The vines can easily reach 25 feet. The male plant produces flowers but they’re unproductive and should be removed. It’s best if your lady plant produces only non-fertilized seed. If you take good care of the two of them, your hops will have no trouble propagating: they will send out rhizomes from which the new plants will sprout, creating more and more opportunities for your next pint of suds.