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Those Beautiful, Tempting, Devilish Flowering Vines
Part 3- Slower Growers
Parts 1 and 2 of this series dealt with flowering vines, covering fast and moderate types. This installation deals with "slower" growers, which in some cases are actually vining shrubs. The speed factor of vine growth is very relative to cultural conditions in addition to the innate ability of the vine species. In other words, resource availability can make a big difference in growth speed.
One case in point is a popular container species, Mandevilla amabilis , often sold in flower for its rich candy-pink flowers. In a container with a trellis, the plant is well behaved, with a modest growth speed. Set into sandy organic soil in the ground, the plant can grow a foot a day or more. Growers of Bonsai know this principle very well; plant a Bonsai tree, treat it as a landscape plant, and the tree grows rather fast. On the other hand, I doubt that anything would slow down a Stictocardia beraviensis except for killing cold weather.
With these words in mind, there are some species of "slower" growth in almost all circumstances. One of the interesting scenarios is that ill-determined area of vining shrubs, many of which make outstanding arbor or trellis specimens. One of my favorites is Bauhinia grandidieri, a low, prostrate shrub that will clamber over a trellis or support. It has petite light lavender flowers, prunes nicely, and grows at a stately speed without ever getting out of hand. Bauhinia galpinii with red-orange flowers, is also a clambering type of shrub, and there are several recent Bauhinia vine introductions from Thailand of gold and yellow-flowered species.
Defining a vine can be difficult. There are, as with so many plants, numerous groups within the term. For instance, Bougainvillea can be classified as either a scrambling bush or a "vine". One of the older definitions of a vine is a plant which climbs against upward gravity by means of spines, tendrils, holdfasts or other means of gripping a mounting surface. Ficus repens, the Climbing Ficus, makes an excellent wall cover or groundcover, but won't do very well as a draping species on a trellis or arbor. For our purposes here, I'm considering those flowering plants which actively grow upward, and will make a nice arbor or trellis. There are numerous varieties in each group, so research species carefully. Many Hoya species are very slow-growing, and there is a huge range in flower sizes, as well as leaf size and flower colors. The giant species called 'Big Mac' , Hoya macgillivrayi , can produce a flower head the size of a football, each flower as large as a silver dollar.
Beaumontia grandiflora Easter Lily Vine
Flowering vines are a major source of character and color in a garden, whether it is a container garden in San Francisco or a public garden in Georgia, or covering a fence in Miami. There are options for choices of plant, site, and purpose. Use your local intellectual options for making the right choice, and understand what might happen if you don't.