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Pretty tough vines

by Timber Press on March 24, 2017

in Design, Gardening

Selecting tough plants is increasingly important in the age of climate change, so the experts at Plant Select. detail the most resilient, water-smart, and colorful picks for your home garden in Pretty Tough PlantsLearn more about the best vines for your garden and patio:

Dolichos lablab ‘Ruby Moon’

Ruby Moon hyacinth bean • Fabaceae (bean family)
Size: 6-10 ft. trellised, 3–5 ft. untrellised
Flowers: violet-purple, all summer
Best features: purple-hued foliage; rapidly growing vine; long season of appeal; provides a seasonal screen

Photo by David Winger.

Ruby Moon hyacinth bean is a vigorous vining cousin to garden beans but with dark purple tinged foliage, attractive in its own right. The generous clusters of deep amethyst-violet flowers resemble those of a delicate wisteria and are produced abundantly from midsummer to the frosty days of autumn.

Full sun to partial shade. Loam. Moderate watering. Susceptible to spider mites. Propagate by seed; collect seeds in the fall to sow in the greenhouse the following spring so that sizeable plants can be transplanted into the garden after frost-free date; soak them in hot water for an hour to help improve germination. USDA hardiness zones 7–11.

Photo by Carla Tews.

Ruby Moon hyacinth bean makes a wonderful addition to a wall, fence, arbor, or pergola, creating graceful mounds in the annual or perennial border. By late summer, expect this plant to be a focal point in your garden with hundreds of flowers produced together with huge, flat, dark violet glossy legumes contrasting with purple leaves. Complement Ruby Moon’s flower and bean colors with PIKE’S PEAK PURPLE, Carolyn’s Hope, and SHADOW MOUNTAIN penstemons, and use silverheels horehound to accent the lovely hues of purples and pinks. Attracts bees.

Tropical Africa and widely cultivated in India, Southeast Asia, Egypt, and Sudan.

Lonicera reticulata ‘P015S’

KINTZLEY’S GHOST honeysuckle • Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle family)
Size: 8–12 ft. tall, 3–6 ft. wide
Flowers: yellow, summer
Best features: silvery white bracts just below the flowers, persisting into autumn

Photo by Carla Tews.

The nearly tubular flowers open pale yellow and fade to pale orange, followed by orange to red berries. The most dramatic feature of this species, however, is the persistent, silvery white, nearly circular, silver-dollar-sized bract surrounding the stem just below the flowers, resembling silver dollar eucalyptus.

Full sun to partial shade. Loam. Moderate watering to dry. Low maintenance and easy to grow. Fast-growing when established. Propagate by cuttings. Once the plants begin to flower, rooting percentages decrease greatly. USDA hardiness zones 4–8.

Photo by Carla Tews.

KINTZLEY’S GHOST honeysuckle is an excellent cover specimen to twine on fences, arbors, and pergolas. Plant medium-sized perennials nearby, including Tennessee purple coneflower and red birds in a tree. For a real wow factor, use VERMILION BLUFFS Mexican sage or WINDWALKER royal red salvia. Attracts hummingbirds, bees, and hawkmoths. Deer resistant.

Northeastern and upper central United States from central New York, west to Wisconsin, and south to Missouri and Arkansas, in moist woods and thickets. William P. “Ped” Kintzley, a gifted horticulturist with no formal training, selected this improved form of the species in the early 1880s while working in the Iowa State University greenhouses in Ames, Iowa. Fast forward more than 100 years: Scott Skogerboe of Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery found this unusual honeysuckle growing in the yard of grandson Lee Kintzley in north Fort Collins, Colorado, in 2001, recognizing it as something very special.

Vitis ‘Saint Theresa Seedless’

Saint Theresa Seedless grape • Vitaceae (grape family)
Size: 15–20 ft. tall, 3–8 ft. wide
Flowers: inconspicuous, white, spring
Best features: clusters of edible fruit ripening in early autumn; hardy; tolerates alkaline soil

Photo by David Staats.

Despite its name, this grape sometimes produces small nutletlike immature seeds in the fruits. It is one of the most winter-hardy seedless grapes available and produces sweet, juicy, nearly seedless grapes. Like all grape vines, the fruit is sweetest when grown in full sun.

Full sun to partial shade. Clay or loam. Moderate watering. Can survive on moderately low water, but fruit quality better with regular irrigation. A deep watering twice per month during the growing season is advised. Because this vine climbs by twirling tendrils, a wire fence is ideal for support. Flowers and fruits appear on new growth, so to keep vines contained, prune in winter by cutting back each cane to one or two buds from last season’s growth. Propagate by hardwood cuttings taken in late spring before bud break; take a minimum of 2 node cuttings and place the lower node 2 or 3 inches into the rooting media; place in a sunny location and water to keep the soil moist; protect the cutting from freezing temperatures during rooting; no rooting hormone is required. USDA hardiness zones 4–9.

Saint Theresa Seedless grape is an excellent choice for covering a wire fence or a wooden trellis for fruit production. It can also be grown on an arbor to provide shade for a patio or deck. For a fun kitchen garden theme, add other edible plants to the garden area, including Comanche gooseberry, rhubarb, strawberries, and other small fruits. Attracts bees occasionally.

A garden-originated hybrid between the European wine grape Vitis vinifera and several North American grape species including V. labrusca and V. riparia. This selection was bred by the late Elmer Swenson of Osceola, Wisconsin, and is named in honor of Saint Theresa of Lisieux who showed her love of God and the earth by planting flowers.


Plant Select® is a leading non-profit cultivator, distributor, and educator of plants designed to thrive in the high plains and intermountain region, and anywhere that water resources are of concern.


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