Where you want to produce a bold and picturesque effect with a vine, nothing will do it more rapidly and completely than our native grapes. They are precisely adapted to the porch of the farmhouse, or to cover any building, or part of a building, where expression of strength rather than of delicacy is sought after. Then you will find it easy to smooth away all objections from the practical soul of the farmer, by offering him a prospect of ten bushels of fine Isabella or Catawba grapes a year, which you, in your innermost heart, do not value half so much as five or ten months of beautiful drapery!
Next to the grape-vine, the boldest and most striking of hardy vines is the Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia sipho). It is a grand twining climber, and will canopy over a large arbor in a short time, and make a shade under it so dense that not a ray of pure sunshine will ever find its way through. Its gigantic circular leaves, of a rich green, form masses such as delight a painter's eye, - so broad and effective are they; and as for its flowers, which are about an inch and a half long, - why, they are so like a veritable meerschaum - that you cannot but laugh outright at the first sight of them. Whether Daphne was truly metamorphosed into the sweet flower that bears her name, as Ovid says, we know not; but no one can look at the blossom of the Dutchman's pipe vine, without being convinced that nature has punished some inveterately lazy Dutch smoker by turning him into a vine, which loves nothing so well as to bask in the warm sunshine, with its hundred pipes, dangling on all sides.
And now, having glanced at the best of the climbers and twiners, properly so called (all of which need a little training and supporting), let us take a peep at those climbing shrubs that seize hold of a wall, building, or fence, of themselves, by throwing out their little rootlets into the stone or brick wall as they grow up, so that it is as hard to break up any attachments of theirs, when they get fairly established, as it was to part Hector and Andromache. The principal of these are the true Ivy of Europe, the Virginia Creeper or American Ivy, and the Trumpet Creepers (Bignonias or Tecomas).
These are all fine, picturesque vines, not to be surpassed for certain effects by anything else that will grow out of doors in our climate. You must remember, however, that, as they are wedded for life to whatever they cling to, they must not be planted by the sides of wooden' cottages, which are to be kept in order by a fresh coat of paint now and then. Other climbers may be taken down, and afterwards tied back to their places; but constant, indissoluble intimacies like these must be let alone. You will therefore always take care to plant them where thy can fix themselves permanently on a wall of some kind, or else upon some rough wooden building, where they will not be likely to be disturbed.
Certainly the finest of all this class of climbers is the European Ivy. Such rich masses of glossy, deep green foliage, such fine contrasts of light and shade, and such a wealth of associations, is possessed by no other plant; the Ivy, to which the ghost of all the storied past alone tells its tale of departed greatness; the confidant of old ruined castles and abbeys; the bosom companion of solitude itself, -
"Deep in your most sequestered bower Let me at last recline, Where solitude, mild, modest flower, Leans on her ivy'd shrine".
True to these instincts, the Ivy does not seem to be naturalized so easily in America as most other foreign vines. We are yet too young - this country of a great future, and a little past.
The richest and most perfect specimen of it that we have seen, in the northern states, is upon the cottage of Washington Irving, on the Hudson, near Tarrytown. He, who as you all know, lingers over the past with a reverence as fond and poetical as that of a pious Crusader for the walls of Jerusalem - yes, he has completely won .the sympathies of the Ivy, even on our own soil, and it has garlanded and decked his antique and quaint cottage, "Surinyside," till its windows peep out from amid the wealth of its foliage, like the dark eyes of a Spanish Sefiora from a shadowy canopy of dark lace and darker tresses.
The Ivy is the finest of climbere, too, because it is so perfectly evergreen. North of New York it is a little tender, and needs to be sheltered for a few years, unless it be planted on a north wall, quite out of the reach of the winter sun); and north of Albany, we think it will not grow at all. But all over the middle states it should be planted and cherished, wherever there is a wall for it to cling to, as the finest of all cottage drapery.*
After this plant, comes always our Virginia Creeper, or American Ivy, as it is often called (Ampelopsis). It grows more rapidly than the Ivy, clings in the same way to wood or stone, and makes rich and beautiful festoons of verdure in summer, dying off in autumn, before the leaves fall, in the finest crimson. Its greatest beauty, on this account, is perhaps seen when it runs up in the centre of a dark cedar, or other evergreen, - exhibiting in October the richest contrast of the two colors. It will grow anywhere, in the coldest situations, and only asks to be planted, to work out its own problem of beauty without further attention. This and the European Ivy are the two climbers, above all others, for the exteriors of our rural stone churches; to which they will give a local interest greater than that of any carving in stone, at a millionth part of the cost.
* The experience of another 70 years does not bear out Mr. Downing's recommendation of the English ivy. There are only a few localities, mostly on the eastern seaboard, where it can be used with satisfaction. - F. A. W.