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I have a lot of use for climbing plants, as one of my next door neighbours has a penchant for massive, ugly wooden-slatted fences, one of which we now have standing oppressively all the way down one side of our (long and thin) back garden, like some kind of forgotten siding left over from the Berlin Wall.
The pre-fall-of-communism Eastern-bloc is also commemorated in kind by the towering breeze-block outbuilding these folk have recently planted hard against the objectionable fence. This, on the planning application was supposed to be rendered sympathetically, and to be surfaced with Cotswold stone in keeping with the rest of the house and garden - which it is, on the side facing their garden at least, though all we're left with on our side is a looming view of the concrete bricks underneath, unsightly metal ties poking through at intervals and everything.
I think in this sort of case all a person can do is to try and grow plants over the offending structure(s) as objectionably as possible. While what I think the neighbours have really been asking for is for me to run that most rampant of potentially out-of-control climbers , the Russian vine up the party fence and onto the concrete wall, I stopped short of that and planted Virginia creeper instead.
Virginia creeper is apparently a member of the grape family, which you can actually see a bit - from the shape of leaves, the bright red colour the foliage turns in autumn, and even from the very inconspicuous grape-cluster-like 'fruits'.
The leaves of the creeper are shaped a bit like smaller versions of the leaves of the horse chestnut tree. The span of the leaf (it's actually a cluster of leaflets) of the Virginia creeper is about 15cm at most. It's a native of woodlands in North America (I saw it growing wild quite often when we went on holiday to Florida) where it scrambles up trees and fence-lines and such. When growing through trees etc., the vine has a tendency to grow to a certain point and then to send long stems of foliage trailing down, which can produce a very attractive effect, especially in autumn, when the long waving fronds turn bright red in colour. The rest of the year the vine is green often with a slightly purplish red cast, and often with faint, lighter markings running along the veins of the leaves. One negative point about the plant in terms of it being a cover-up for unsightly structures is that it's deciduous: all the leaves fall off in winter, leaving only a tracery of fine, dark brown stems - and for a small plant like my garden one currently is, the net effect is it's that it's totally disappeared!
Of critical importance for the wall-camouflaging purpose I have for the cultivated variety is that It is a 'self-supporting' climber; as I can't very well staple a trellis to the breeze-block edifice the neighbours have erected next door, it's useful for me that the plant I intend to grow up their wall will cling to the surfaces all on its own. And Virginia creeper has an ingenious method of keeping itself in place: it puts out little tendril-like stems which have adhesive pads at the ends of them. These will grow onto and stick fast to even a flat vertical surface (such as a wooden fence), acting as moorings to keep the leaf-bearing stems of the plant in place.
While I've seen fences and houses etc. 'cloaked' entirely in a covering of Virginia creeper, from what I've seen in my garden, it can take the plant quite a while to get established and in the first few years after planting: although the plant gets taller the leaf growth is relatively sparse. Although it's a forest plant, in the low light levels in the part the garden I've planted mine in the initial growth has been quite straggly - and the vine seems happy enough to grow along the ground as it is to be growing up the fence I want camouflaged! It is certainly climbing up the fence in places however, and I have high hopes that it'll begin to spread outwards to cover a large area.
I got my Virginia creeper as a foot-high plant from Morrison's supermarket, where it cost £2 to £3. Larger specimens from garden centres would probably cost more, but would get on with the real job of covering unsightly architectural features in your garden much more quickly.
I bought a Virginia Creeper about three years ago. It just looked like a stick with roots and I must admit that when I opened the packaging (it was via mail order) I was not happy. I really thought I had paid for a dead stick.
Anyway, I planted it and just left it, not expecting it to do anything. This was in august. Within two weeks it had started to grow and when the winter arrived it was about four feet tall. I had forgotten about it when it sprouted again in the following spring. The first year it covered one end of my outhouse and from then onwards if has gone mad.
The tendrils on this plant allow it to hold on quite tightly to any surface but I prefer to give it something to cling to. I bought some green garden wire and made a kind of criss-cross pattern on the wall by stringing the wire between a few nails.
The leaves change colour during the summer and the vine produces some small white flowers which you would never notice unless you went in search of them. I have had to trim it back a few times as it seems to like travelling along the guttering and I was sure it was intent on going down the drainpipe. (Do plants have intentions, I wonder?)
I have recently strung some wire across the bottom of my garden to form a kind of archway and it looks absolutely beautiful. The leaves have turned all shades of brown, orange, yellow and rich red and strands of the vine hang down to form a curtain. I know it won't last long because the leaves have started to fall and I'll soon be back to brown sticks, but it is all worth it just for this.
This is a truly beautiful climbing plant but it needs to be kept under control.
I have a rather high fence down one side of my garden, and needed a climber to cover it. I decided against the unstoppable Russian Vine, and decided to try Parthenocissus quinquefolia aka Virginia Creeper instead. I had, of course, seen it growing up the walls of houses and watched it turn that beautiful shade of red in late autumn, and thought how lovely it would look growing along my fence. Was this a good choice? On balance, no I do not think it was, for three reasons:- 1)Yes, it looks pretty in the autumn when it turns red. This does not last very long, perhaps two weeks, then the leaves all fall off. Through the winter all you get to look at is the brown stem. 2)During the spring and summer there is not a lot to excite your interest either, just a lot of green leaves. These are quite nice to look at when they first come out and cover the fence, but after a couple of weeks, interest wanes. Mine has some insignificant flowers appear briefly at some stage during the summer, blink and you will miss them. On my plant they are white. 3)Whilst not as invasive or rampant as the dreaded russian vine, virginia creepers do spread. I cut mine back, almost to ground level every two years. One annoying thing about it, is that whilst most of it grows up and along the fence, other bits decide to grow along the ground and wrap themselves round other plants in my garden. When I do cut it back it is sometimes quite hard to pull the pruned bits off the fence. those little suckers and tendrils like to hang on. Are there any advantages in growing a virginia creeper - only one, in my opinion, its not as bad as a russian vine!
Also called Woodbine, or American Ivy (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), the Virginia Creeper is a woody vine, in the grape family that climbs by means of disk-tipped tendrils. It is commonly found in eastern North America and is often grown as a covering vine for walls, fences, and trunks of large trees. Its fall colour ranges from yellow to red-purple. Several cultivated varieties, with smaller leaves and shorter tendrils, have been developed to provide denser coverage.