By GEOFF MIERS
Climbers are great additions to the home garden as they require little space and provide a vertical element to the garden that many other plant species aren’t able to achieve.
And – ooops – some bite or strangle.
Aside from requiring little space and providing a vertical element to the garden climbing plants also have a variety of other uses: They provide protection for exposed walls, cover fences and other unsightly structures, give summer shade, winter light and can also be used as ground cover plants and or course a number also provide food.
There are many climbers that grow well in Alice Springs, it’s simply a matter of finding the right vines that best suits your situation or fulfils your want. Detailed below are some of the most favourite vines available in your local nursery now.
Grape vines are one of my absolute favourites as this plant serves so many purposes. It provides summer shade, drops its leaves in winter to let the sun in to warm that part of the garden it shades in Summer. They can be grown along a fence, up a wall of a building to give protection or they can be grown over a pergola.
Most importantly grape vines produce masses of fruit that can be eaten fresh, dried, juiced or even made into wine. There are few grape vines currently available however in late Summer and Autumn they should again be available.
Jasminum polyanthum (Sweet-scented jasmine) is one of the more noticeable vines that thrives in Central Australia, being most notable for its strong scent.
It is a strong growing evergreen plant with dark compound leaves and in spring is completely covered with white flowers that are pink centred.
The blooms of the Sweet-scented jasmine are highly perfumed and can fill an entire garden with their perfume. They tend to compliment the perfume of the many citrus also in full bloom in winter/spring.
This vine is a rapid grower. As it grows the leading tendrils should be tipped to induce the vine to thicken and spread out over the trellis or growing frame it is climbing up. This vine is currently in bloom.
The Lonicera japonica commonly called Japanese Honeysuckle is another most useful, hardy vine as demonstrated by the fine examples that can be seen outside the front of the Steak House Restaurant. They have been there for several decades. The Honeysuckle is a fast growing climber that bears masses of fragrant tubular clusters of flowers in Summer.
It is ideal for climbing over walls and fences and for covering trellises. It will grow in a full sun to half sun/half shade location.
The Chinese Star Jasmine called Trachelospermum jasminoides is a tough versatile evergreen plant with glossy deep green leaves with masses of small, white, fragrant flowers throughout the warmer months. This plant is currently in full bloom and has been for nearly a month.
This twining plant can be used as a bordering plant, a climber of as a clump forming ground cover. It will grow in full sun to semi shade however will flower poorly if grown in shade locations.
Excellent examples of this vine can be found in the courtyard of the Red Ochre Grill Restaurant in Todd Street.
The Bower of Beauty called Pandorea jasminoides is a beautiful twining evergreen climber which from Spring to Summer is smothered in a mass of light pink, trumpet flowers that have red throats.
The foliage is attractive, glossy and deep green. It is a perfect climber for covering fences, walls and sheds and will grow in full sun to half sun/half shade.
A winter flowering vine that is still in bloom is the orange trumpet vine Pyrostegia venusta (P. ignea). With its masses of bright orange flowers in winter through to Spring this vine is a most popular climber that grows well in a range of soils.
An exotic creeper originally from Brazil its common names of Orange trumpet vine, Flame vine and Golden shower give an indication as to its stunning visual display when in full bloom.
It will grow in full sun to light shade, is best in a warm location and will respond well to a light prune after flowering is complete. Its requires little fertilising as it is a vigorous growing vine once established. A relatively frost free location is the best spot to grow this vine as it doesn’t like minus three to four degrees however despite sometimes being burnt by the frosts it comes back magnificently once the weather warms.
Bougainvilleas are another climber that thrives in our climate and is most forgiving even of the poorest, salty soils. With both the large and smaller dwarf varieties they can be grown in the ground or in containers.
Bougainvilleas come in a range of various colours from white, yellow, orange, lilac, pinks, reds and purples. By pruning hard at the end of winter their size can be easily managed.
Bougainvilleas are also great protector plants as they have thorns that will deter most intruders wanting to invade your garden.
Bougainvillas are still recovering from the cold days of winter and are just emerging from their slumber now producing new foliage. Give them 6-8 weeks and they will be looking their best again. They really take off once the soil and air temperatures have warmed up.
There are several other favourite climbers that thrive in Alice Springs. These include the difficult to get deciduous Wisteria, the Cat’s Claw Creeper Bignonia tweetie and the brilliant pink flowering Coral vine plus the local native vine Pandorea doratoxylon or Spearvine.
Photo 1: Pyrostegia venusta or Orange Trumpet Vine. (Not a little frost damage on top.) Photo 2: Trachelospermum jasminoides or Chinese Star Jasmine. Photo 3: Jasminum polyanthum (below).