Vine Arbor

vine arbor heading

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Vines are a group of landscape plants that are underutilized even though its members can play a USEFUL role in the garden and fill an important niche. Both height and verticality as landscape components are often neglected by designers and homeowners alike. People tend to focus on herbaceous plants—which they think of as “flowers”—and woody plants— that they limit to trees and shrubs. Vines, whether herbaceous or woody, somehow get lost.

Vines are characterized by fast growth and limited lateral growth (although there are notable exceptions). They can be deciduous or evergreen, monoecious or dioecious, ten feet or one hundred.

Vines are plants that do not support themselves but scramble or climb upon others. They are an evolutionary adaption that developed independently in numerous plant families.

For what purpose?

Why dedicate energy to growing upright with a sturdy and rigid stem/trunk when you can take advantage of other plants to do that work for you? The great lianas of the rain forest (think the long ropey vines in Tarzan) reach the sunlit canopy by piggy backing on giant forest trees.

How do vines accomplish this? How do they climb?

They have developed a number of different strategies, sometimes using more than one of these strategies at the same time, and sometimes modifying a prefered strategy depending on the available support structure.

These various strategies have fascinated people in many fields of study for a long time. The mechanics of twining and tendrils especially are complex and have been the focus of experimentation and entire books dating back to Darwin. His "On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants" was originally published in the Journal of the Linnean Society of London, 1865, 9: 1-118 and later published on its own as a separate monograph. More recently, in-depth scientific explorations like The Biology of Vines (ed. Putz and Mooney, Cambridge University Press, 1991) have appeared.

Scientists study just how twining vines twine, in which direction they spiral, what their angle of their spiraling is, and how large a center structure they can spiral around, among other things. They study how tendrils reach out searching for something to grab onto, moving around in mid-air until they come upon something of the right diameter to meet their needs for attachment. Time lapse videos of both of these mobile strategies are fascinating to watch and provide scientists with detailed information on these complicated processes.

ATTACHMENT STRATEGIES INCLUDE

Twining: (bines)
Use their stems to climb up objects by twining around them. They can also form somewhat self-supporting columns when many stems entwine.

Twining Petioles:
Use their petioles (the small stalks at the base of leaves) to twine around objects in a manner similar to the tendril climbers.

Adventitious Clinging Roots:
Use adhesive adventitious roots to climb trees or rock faces. These roots can often look like bunches of hairs along the liana stems. These species grow close to the substrate they are attached to and sometimes form lateral branches that grow out and away from the main stem of the liana.

Tendrils: leaf tendrils and stem tendrils
Use structures that are formed through
modifications of the stem, leaves, leaf tips, or stipules (outgrowths at the base of a leaf). Tendrils coil around small objects such as twigs, allowing the liana to climb.

Adhesive Pads or Holdfasts: at the ends of tendrils
Like root climbers, lianas that have adhesive tendrils adhere to the tree or surface that they are climbing. However, it is not the roots that are doing the climbing in this case, but modified tendrils that have small adhesive pads at the tips.

Hooks:

☞ Support Structures

Because of vines' varying growth habits and attachment strategies, it is crucial to provide the right kind of support for each particular vine. Do you need a wall or large post for adhesive pads or adventitious roots? Wire for tendrils? Posts of varying dimensions for different twining vines?

Whatever vine you have or are considering purchasing, be sure you can give it what it needs to do what it does.

Conversely, if you have a certain structure, whether it be a trellis, a wall, or a post, and you want to grow a vine on it, be sure to select a vine with compatible support needs.

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ATTACHMENT STRATEGIES INCLUDE:

twining adventitious roots tendrils adhesive pads hooks

Twining (bines)

Use their stems to climb up objects by twining around them. They can also form somewhat self-supporting columns when many stems entwine.

Adhesive Roots

Use their petioles (the small stalks at the base of leaves) to twine around objects in a manner similar to the tendril climbers.

Tendrils

leaf tendrils and stem tendrils: Use structures that are formed through
modifications of the stem, leaves, leaf tips, or stipules (outgrowths at the base of a leaf). Tendrils coil around small objects such as twigs, allowing the liana to climb.

Adhesive Pads

or Holdfasts: at the ends of tendrilsLike root climbers, lianas that have adhesive tendrils adhere to the tree or surface that they are climbing. However, it is not the roots that are doing the climbing in this case, but modified tendrils that have small adhesive pads at the tips.

Hooks

The following plants are found in the Maxwell Arboretum Vine Arbor (click to access information, location map, and photos)
SCIENTIFIC NAME CULTIVAR COMMON NAME
Actinidia kolomitka 'Arctic Beauty' Hardy Kiwi
Akebia quinata 'Shirobana' Fiveleaf Akebia
Akebia × pentaphylla Fiveleaf Akebia
Celastrus scandens American Bittersweet
Clematis 'Proteus' Clematis
Clematis 'Rouge Cardinal' Clematis
Clematis ternifolia Sweet Autumn Clematis
Clematis texensis 'Princess Diana' Clematis
Hydrangea anomala petiolaris Climbing Hydrangea
Lathyrus latifolius 'Pink Pearl' Sweet Pea
Lonicera × heckrottii 'Summer King' Gold Flame Honeysuckle
Schisandra chinensis Magnolia Vine
Wisteria frutescens American Wisteria
Wisteria frutescens 'Aunt Maude' American Wisteria