This section is from the book "How To Make A Flower Garden", by Wilhelm Miller. Also available from Amazon: The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques.
THERE are so many kinds of vines excellent in foliage, flower, and berry, and so many effective ways of growing them, that one is often at a loss what to choose and how to proceed. My first choice for a permanent covering of porch pillars is the Japanese Akebia quinata. Its good points are: freedom from the attacks of worms or caterpillars (whose acrobatic feats of dropping from an unknown height and landing upon one's neck I do not enjoy), the early unfolding of its leaves, the lateness of their retention, and the delicate silhouettes its five-fingered leaflets form against a moonlit sky. This vine is quite hardy, and a rapid grower when once established in good light soil. Its flowers, appearing in early spring, are more curious than attractive, being small and spicily fragrant. It seldom fruits in this country. It is a social vine, allowing friendly neighbours to encroach upon its rights without apparent injury to itself.
The main vine embowering my porch is the Akebia, which is planted at the base of the pillars. Between these pillars the large-flowered species of clematis are freely used, but I also grow Clematis Flammula for its fleece-white bloom in midsummer, and moderately young plants of Clematis paniculata for the same effect in early autumn. Both of these are cut back when through blooming - at least, any portion of them that may have grown over the face of the Akebia, since I wish to allow the latter to enjoy full possession of sunlight and air part of its growing season. Clematis Flammula is never a very strong vine with me, and when the paniculata gets too rampant it is removed.
My next favourite of the hard-wooded vines (those that do not die back in winter) is also a Japanese plant - Celastrus orbiculatus, a relative of our bittersweet. It is not adapted to porch decoration, as its long, waving, semipendant arms are too vigorous and rampant, and would be seriously in the way, but for arbours or large arches it is admirable. While its foliage is good at all times, its chief beauty is its berried effect in late autumn and throughout the winter months, just at the time when the echoes of the summer glories are most welcome. Fortunately (for me, at least), where the ravine-nested birds are so numerous, its berries are unmolested by the feathered tribe, and remain pendant all winter, like coral beads floating in the air. In this species they are more numerous than in its American relative, C. scandens. I imagine the Japanese form to be the stronger grower of the two.
An effective way to grow the American bittersweet is to allow it to twine around an iron rod. I use a three-inch iron pipe, set in a block of cement at the bottom of the hole, to steady it against heavy winds. Its effect in winter, when in its berry garb, is fine. These vines are very accommodating as to situation, thriving in full sunshine or partial shade.
Vines overrun it on all sides, and convert its spacious verandas into avenues of shade.
An aged or dead tree can often be completely covered by vines with good effect.
The Virginia creeper (Ampelopsis quinquefolia) of our woods, which colours so beautifully in the fall, is best placed upon your neighbour's gateposts or your barn, where you may admire it at a distance, and where the caterpillar may feed upon its leaves and not become familiar with and attached to you. Or it may climb up the trunk of defunct oaks, or any large tree, where it may hang in festoons from the lower branches. Young trees should not be used for this purpose, as they are apt to be smothered and eventually killed. Sometimes a boulder can be partially covered by a Virginia creeper with good effect.
The honeysuckles are excellent to cover wire fences, or for grouping on sunny slopes and then allowed to bunch and trail at their own sweet will.
The Dutchman's-pipe, in sections where it does well, is a clean, vigorous-looking vine, with heavy overlapping foliage, bearing flowers which are tantalising to one who has recently sworn off smoking.
The trumpet creeper is suitable for training against a clothes-line post. It should be pinched back when it reaches the top; it will then form a shrublike head. Or it may be allowed to climb up into some large tree and roam around its branches.
The two matrimony vines, Lycium Chinense and L. barbatum, may be used with effect on low trellises. The first-named is the finer in berry, but near Chicago L. barbatum is the stronger grower.
The moonseed makes a good cover for clothes-line posts, but, if recent reports are true, its berries are poisonous to children.
The Boston ivy is too well known to mention. It is the best of all vines for house-walls in America.
Where artificial supports are given to a vine, let them be of a permanent nature, such as iron rods or gas pipes. Perishable trellises generally look limp and intoxicated by the time the vines are luxuriously developed and approach our ideal of vine beauty. It is also demoralising to see them sprawling upon the ground after some wind-storm.
It is often desirable to close the end of a porch-opening, either to shield from public view, to shut out the sun, or to hide an unpleasant aspect. This is easily accomplished by planting thickly and supporting the vines on light iron framework.