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.
Having experienced in former years the advantage of training pumpkins on poles and trees, I determined last spring to build a trellis over the kitchen door, on the south side of the house, for shade, ornament and fruitfulness, and I was much pleased with the beautiful effect.
I planted the seeds of the small pie pumpkin in a box, in the house, early in April, and they were almost ready to run when I set them in the ground about the first of June. Five plants were set out a foot apart on each side of the steps.
I spaded deep into the rich soil, and powdered it fine, leaving a saucer-shaped depression in the ground about the plants so that the moisture would settle around the roots and not run off.
Three or four times during the season I stirred the soil thoroughly with the hoe, and watered the vines with liquid fertiliser from the stable. A more interesting subject for nature-study I have never had. My vines grew about six inches a day, and every few days I found it necessary to tie the sprays to the wires and slats of the arbour.
In a few weeks they had reached the top of the trellis, and formed a canopy of shade so dense that the sun could not shine through, even in spots. The leaves grew so large that they resembled palm leaf fans, and the scores of rich golden blossoms, opening every day during the summer, were wonderful to behold. The pumpkin arbour became the admiration of the whole neighbourhood. Seven golden pumpkins ripened and were duly made into pies.
I learned several interesting and profitable lessons from my experiment.
1. That no plant or vine grows more rapidly, or makes a more luxuriant, tropical, and dense shade, than the pumpkin vine.
2. The tendrils are so strong that, after they have made a dozen tight coils about a wire or around each other, they become almost as tough as the wire itself.
Pumpkin vine at the back door.
3. Pumpkin vines possess remarkable vitality. One stem was crushed underfoot and held together by only a few fibers, but I bound it tightly together with a strip of muslin, and it climbed to the top of the frame and bore a ripe pumpkin; another branch was broken more than half in two, but it grew right on and bore fruit.
4. The male and female blossoms were also an interesting study. The former were very numerous, and bloomed at the end of long, slender stems, while the latter grew on stout, thick stems, with embryo pumpkins well formed back of the blossoms before they opened.
5. The fruit grew in greater profusion, ripened more perfectly, and had a better flavour than when it grows on the ground.
6. Though the bugs were very troublesome last summer, and destroyed almost all of the pumpkin and squash vines in our vicinity, my climbing vines were not molested by them.
7. It was very entertaining to watch the ripening of the pumpkins. At first, small round spots or stars of yellow appeared on the surface. Then followed an intricate tracery of yellow lace, woven by Nature's skillful yet invisible fingers upon the groundwork of deep green, which grew brighter and more distinct from day to day, until the whole orb of emerald turned to a globe of gold, and by the sun became a sun in miniature by other suns surrounded, in the zenith of our arbour's sky, and the fruit of the pumpkin tree was ripe and ready for the harvest.
8. It is worth while to examine the commoneed plants, especially the vegetables, with reference to new combinations of use and beauty. Take rhubarb, for instance. Unlike many of the foreign things that are wanted for broad-leaved effects in the hardy border, it is sure to grow.
Side view of pumpkin vine.