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Climbing Vines that are Perfect for Pergolas

Sep 1, 2023 | Gardens, Services

The visual appeal of a pergola is unmatched in landscape design when it comes to the focal point of your outdoor living space.  It can act as an extension of your home or, more often, as a source of shade that also allows for gentle breezes to surround you.  One of the best things about the addition of a pergola is how it provides you with a framework that many lovely climbing plants can thrive on and around.

Avoid ‘Suckers’ Vines

One fascinating characteristic of climbing vines is their ability to latch onto structures, and this is often achieved through specialized “suckers” or sticky tips. These adhesive mechanisms allow the vines to climb vertically and spread horizontally, covering a large area in a relatively short amount of time. While this feature is what makes them ideal for creating lush, green walls or canopies, it’s essential to note that these suckers can also leave behind a sticky residue.

Moreover, the adhesive properties of these suckers can potentially cause damage to certain building materials. For instance, if your pergola is made of a softer wood or has a paint finish, the suckers can either penetrate the material or cause the paint to peel off over time. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider the compatibility of the vine with the structure it will be climbing on.

Two classic examples of such vigorous climbing vines are the Virginia Creeper and Boston Ivy. Both of these species are known for their rapid growth rates, making them excellent choices if you’re looking to quickly cover a large area. However, their speed of growth also means they can become invasive if not properly managed. These vines can quickly spread beyond the intended area, creeping into gutters, windows, or even neighboring properties, making them somewhat challenging to control.

Climate-Friendly Vines

While some climbing vines can be a bit aggressive and potentially damaging to your structures, there are alternatives that are both gentle on your pergola and well-suited for various climates. Two such favorites that come highly recommended are the Crossvine or the Wisteria.

These vines are not only visually stunning but also less invasive. One of the standout features of both Crossvine and Wisteria is their flowering capabilities. Unlike some other climbing vines that may attract a host of insects, these two varieties produce blooms that are not only gorgeous to look at but also less appealing to common garden pests. Imagine the joy of sitting under your pergola, enveloped by the cascading flowers of Wisteria or the vibrant orange-red blooms of Crossvine, without the constant buzzing of insects around you.

However, it’s worth noting that these vines may take a bit longer to establish and fully cover your structure compared to faster-growing options. Another important consideration is the weight of these vines as they mature. Both Crossvine and Wisteria can become quite heavy when fully grown, which means they require a sturdy structure to support them. Before planting, ensure that your pergola or trellis is built with materials capable of handling the weight.

Fragrant Vines

If you are dreaming of a fragrant retreat, you might consider the Trumpet Honeysuckle.  But be aware that the bees will also enjoy their fragrance.  On the plus side, so do the hummingbirds.  The Climbing Hydrangea is a grower’s favorite with its beautiful blooms.

Known for its sweet, intoxicating aroma, the Trumpet Honeysuckle can transform your outdoor space into a sensory delight. However, it’s essential to note that you won’t be the only one attracted to its fragrance. Bees are also quite fond of Trumpet Honeysuckle, so if you’re allergic or averse to these pollinators, you might want to think twice.

On the flip side, the vine’s fragrance and nectar-rich flowers are a magnet for hummingbirds. These tiny, colorful birds add another layer of enchantment to your garden, making your pergola a hotspot for local wildlife and providing endless opportunities for bird-watching right in your backyard.

Another vine that has captured the hearts of many gardeners is the Climbing Hydrangea. This plant is renowned for its stunning blooms, which come in a variety of colors depending on the soil’s acidity. The large, lace-cap flowers are a sight to behold and can add a touch of elegance to any pergola. However, the Climbing Hydrangea is not a fast grower; it takes its time to become established.

Because of its slower growth rate, you might want to consider alternate shading solutions for your pergola until the Climbing Hydrangea has had a chance to fully cover the structure. Whether it’s installing a temporary fabric cover or planting some faster-growing annuals to fill in the gaps, these interim measures can provide the shade you desire while waiting for your Climbing Hydrangea to flourish.

At Johnson’s Landscaping Service we want to make sure that you know all about the wonderful uses of the pergola you have been dreaming about.  If you live in Northwest DC or Montgomery County, MD, Contact us today to find out how we can make your outdoor living space dream your new reality!

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About the Author

Matt Johnson grew up in a family of landscapers and gardeners as the grandson of Raymond Johnson (Founder, 1933, Johnson's Florist and Garden Center) and son of James and Carol Johnson (Founders, 1960, Johnson's Landscaping Service, Inc.). Since 2007, he has led Johnson's Landscaping Service with his brother, Charlie.  Matt and his wife Jaime live in Petworth in Northwest DC with their 3 sons and 2 big dogs.

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