Trumpet Vines Sound Off in Spring

bower vine (Pandorea jasminoides)In the Valley, trumpets of every color herald the news that the sometimes balmy, sometimes stormy, sometimes just plain hot days of spring have arrived in full force. The trumpets I speak of are attached to so- called trumpet vines, those climbing plants named for the unmistakable shape of their flowers.
For years, I have been admiring the lavender trumpet vine that grows along a low chain-link fence that outlines the front yard of a house at the end of my block. There could hardly be a better choice for hiding a low fence than lavender trumpet vine (Clytostoma callistegioides). At this moment, the vine is just beginning to flower but will soon reach the peak of its beauty, when its blooms are so plentifully displayed that its foliage disappears underneath. Now, however, the new, abundant tendrils of the vine have a shiny burgundy sheen, and that, too, is a sight not to be missed.
Another trumpet vine I never tire of observing is found at the Van Nuys Boulevard off-ramp from the eastbound Ventura (101) Freeway. As you reach the bottom of the off-ramp and come to a stop at Van Nuys Boulevard, look to your right. There you will see a stunning specimen of the yellow trumpet vine or cat’s claw (Macfadyena unguis-cati) growing up a wire fence. This miraculous plant grows year in, year out, with no human supervision of any kind, absorbing the fumes of tens of thousands of automobiles, never watered except by rainfall, yet putting out scads of glossy green leaves and bright yellow trumpet flowers each spring. Owing to its durability, as well as its capacity to root wherever a shoot touches the ground, cat’s claw has been utilized as a ground cover in hard-to-maintain, out-of-the-way places, as well as on slopes to prevent erosion.
The most substantial trumpet flower, reaching 4 inches in length, is that of the blood-red trumpet vine (Distictis buccinatoria). The first time you see this flower – orange-red on the outside and yellow on the inside – you will not be able to resist touching it due to its almost artificial look. The unblemished look of the blood-red trumpet flower is without equal when it comes to flowers of rough and ready, everyday vining plants.
As opposed to the above trumpet vines, which will succeed in both sunny and partial sun exposures in the Valley, the bower vine (Pandorea jasminoides) absolutely requires sun protection in our hot summers to grow its best. This is probably the most challenging of the trumpet vines to grow in the Valley since the sun protection it requires for its basic health typically inhibits its ability to flower.
In general, vines of any description require a certain amount of grooming to look their best. This is especially true when the fence or wall to be covered is more than 4 or 5 feet high. The higher the fence, the greater the shade cast by shoots growing at the top of it. The result is that the bottom half of the vine may become leafless from lack of sun reaching it. Yet because of the height of the vine and the pruning difficulty involved, it may suffer from neglect. Also, the trunks of vines may become quite woody over time; only new shoots, growing at the top, will put forth flowers. For this reason, vines will benefit from thinning and pruning on a regular basis to encourage new growth from the base, so flowers will continue to be produced along the entire length of the plant.

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