Adorn Your Fences With Vines

This summer, people are shopping for vines. Fences and block walls that fell in the earthquake are being rebuilt, and vines are a common choice for adorning a new fence or softening the austerity of a block wall.
The fence along my driveway is covered with two popular plants grown as vines: star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) and bougainvillea. Once established in the garden, both are drought-tolerant and require no more than once-a-month soaking.
Star jasmine may be the most versatile landscape plant in Southern California. It takes both sun and shade and is cold-tolerant. It can be used not only as a vine, but as ground cover, hedge or shrub. It produces fragrant, star-shaped white flowers in the spring and early summer, and shows a glossy, dark green, leathery leaf year-round.
Bougainvillea is without equal for its vivid color; it demands full sun and is cold sensitive. The best climbing varieties for the San Fernando and neighboring valleys are San Diego Red, Barbara Karst (fuchsia) and – probably the most brilliant of all – James Walker (magenta). The purple climber (Bougainvillea spectabilis) is a vigorous, high-maintenance type, but it is also the most cold-tolerant.
Trumpet vines, belonging to the Bignonia family, are available in every color. The lavender trumpet vine (Clytostoma callistegioides) is the hardiest and most reliable, although its leaves may turn yellow during hot or cold weather. Red (Distictis buccinatoria), orange (Campsis and Tecomaria), yellow (Macfadyena) and pink (Pandorea) trumpet vines also are available.
Climbing roses are another option for covering fences or walls. Joseph’s Coat, with its changing hues of red, pink and yellow, is a popular variety that stops blooming only in winter.
Other vining plants of special merit include: Hall’s honeysuckle, with fragrant white and yellow flowers; snail vine, with mauve flowers and triangular leaves; Carolina jasmine and cat’s claw, both with yellow flowers; Hardenbergia, with purple blooms; and Aloe ciliaris, a climbing, shade-loving aloe with red and yellow tubular flowers.
To properly train any plant mentioned above: Stretch fishing tackle or baling wire between nails (on wood) or screws (in anchors sunk in block walls). The fishing tackle or wire will serve as a guide cordon for the lengthening vine branches. Encourage vertical growth by cutting back shoots growing away from the fence or wall.
There are vines that can grow up a fence or wall without artificial support. These vines adhere to surfaces not with roots, but with footlike appendages known as holdfasts. Four types are common: English ivy (small, formal leaves), Algerian ivy (large, floppy leaves), Boston ivy (leaves turn color before dropping off in the fall) and creeping fig.
There is an age-old method – called espalier – of training fruit trees to grow against walls. A fruit tree’s limbs are bent to the horizontal; ideally, a candelabrum-shaped plant is the result. Not only is wall space utilized in an appetizing manner, but fruit production also may be enhanced. Hormones that promote flower and fruit production are more highly concentrated in horizontal than in vertical branches.
Many ornamental trees and tall shrubs can be grown in espalier fashion. Some of the more popular ones are pyracantha, evergreen pear, southern magnolia, hibiscus, photinia, xylosma, blue potato bush and red bauhinia.
Readers write
Dennis Roverati of North Hollywood wants to know if the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) can be grown in Southern California. It is available in some nurseries, where it is grouped with indoor plants. Outdoors, it could not survive even moderate cold.
Bruce Ascough of Encino writes for information about growing maidenhair (Adiantum spp.) This fern is difficult to grow because of its moisture requirements: It needs constantly humid air but soil that is allowed to dry out completely between waterings. It also needs a somewhat limey soil, so beware of store-bought potting mixes – which are usually acidic. Finally, avoid getting the fronds wet when watering. The healthiest maidenhair ferns I have seen locally are in the fern section of the UCLA/Mildred Mathias Botanical Garden, located on the Westwood campus.
Tip of the week
During their first year in the garden, slowly soak California natives and other dry-climate plants once a week. Established natives should be watered no more than twice a month, even in the hottest weather, or they may be killed by water molds.

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