Plants to Cover a Chain Link Fence

star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) hedge covers chain link fence

star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) hedge covers chain link fence

Anyone who has ever gardened will tell you that horticulture is therapeutic. Lately, though, the practice of horticultural therapy has become a serious vocation.
Teresia Hazen, who manages horitculture-therapy programs for a health-care system, says that “patients restricted by a disability find that even the simplest gardening experience, such as growing a potted plant from a cutting, gives them a feeling of control.” Equally important is gardening’s value as a distraction. In the words of one retiree, “I can and often do garden from sunup to sundown, to the exclusion of many other things in my life.”
Q: I have a deteriorating wooden fence in my back yard. My neighbor’s bamboo, which covers half of the 70-linear-foot area, is doing nothing to help the situation. She is a good neighbor and has the bamboo cut back every several years, when I ask her to do so, but I am still replacing the wooden fence with a chain link fence. I realize that although she has the bamboo and many other types of vegetation to provide her with privacy, I wish to maintain a good neighbor relationship.
Can you please provide me with some suggestions as to fast-growing low-maintenance plantings that I can plant, in order to quickly cover the chain link fence? By the way, I have a large dog that loves to dig.
– Lawrence Gilbert
Silver Lake
A: Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is a popular vine for covering chain link fences in partial sun or partial shade. For full sun, your best bet would be bougainvillea, especially since it does not need any water once it has established itself, which is usually about two years after planting. Ivy (Helixspecies) and creeping fig (Ficus repens) are climbers particularly suited to shady exposures.
There are many other choices to consider as long as you have several hours of sunlight along your fence line. Depending on your color preference, you should find one of these flowering vines to your liking: red-orange trumpet vine (Distictis buccinatoria), lavender trumpet vine (Clytostoma calistegioides), yellow Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), or pink bower vine (Pandorea jasminoides). Choose pink jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) for a fragrant vine that blooms in late winter.
As for your dog, avoid using bone meal as a fertilizer. If you do, your canine friend will gleefully dig up your vines.
Q: My oleander shrubs seem to be sick. The leaves and stems are turning dry and brown. No amount of water seems to help. I have been told there is an oleander disease going around. There must be millions of oleander bushes in Southern California. Are they all at risk? Is there any way to save them, or should they be replaced?
– Richard A. Warren
A: Oleanders are under attack by a bacteria that is vectored (carried) by the glassy-winged sharpshooter, an insect with gabled and red-veined wings. The disease is known as oleander leaf scorch because of the symptoms you describe. All oleanders in our area are at risk and your best line of defense is to cut out all scorched parts of your plants to prevent spread of the disease, which has no cure.
TIP OF THE WEEK: You can keep your Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria) blooming throughout the year as long as you pull out spent flower stems in their entirety. Stems should be held near the base and snapped out. If you cut faded flowers with a pruning shears or a scissors, your Peruvian lilies will cease blooming for months at a time.

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