Vines occupy vertical space in the garden in ways that trees and shrubs cannot, filling the landscape with graceful drifts of foliage. They can soften the straight lines and right angles of a home or other structure but inevitably need some type of trellis for support. These can be simple, nearly invisible trellis systems or significant features in the landscape, like an arbor or pergola.
Wire Trellis Systems
Fruiting vines are often grown in simple wire trellis systems, which are built more for practical purpose than aesthetics. Two metal or wood posts with a series of wires strung between them allow easy access for harvesting and pruning and are quick and inexpensive to install. There are many variations on the theme, but the design must suit the characteristics of the vine -- annual vegetables need a very different trellis than a large woody vine weighing several hundred pounds. The size of the posts, the depth the post is sunk in the ground and the gauge of the wire used have to be sufficient to support the vine over its entire lifespan.
Fences are a logical choice to use as a trellis system, whether they exist already or are built to support a particular vine. Metal chain-link fences are sturdy enough to support all but the largest woody vines and can quickly be transformed from an eyesore into a lush, flowering border with the right vine species. Wooden fences can support smaller vines but have to be considered more carefully because of the maintenance they require. If a fence needs to be repainted or stained, the vine will have to be removed, at least temporarily. Plus, the dense growth of a vine traps moisture that can cause a wooden fence to rot prematurely.
Wooden trellises are the most classic form used for small, ornamental vines. Typically constructed of light-duty wood, they can be attached to a wall or fence or secured directly to the ground. The color and quality of a wooden trellis can complement the appearance of a vine and provide year-round interest for annual or deciduous vines that would otherwise look bleak in winter. Wooden trellises can be sunk into concrete to support heavier vines or can have pointed stakes at the bottom to secure the trellis to the ground. A self-contained wooden trellis is the best choice to support a vine in a pot or planter.
Vines become part of the architecture of the landscape when trained over an attractive garden structure. Arbors, whether metal or wooden, can be used as trellises and provide a sense of entry or transition from one part of the landscape to another. A well-placed arbor deliberately frames the view of an area as it is approached. A pergola is like a larger arbor that is not an entry to the landscape but a destination and focal point. A pergola is similar to a gazebo but does not have a solid roof to protect from the rain. Instead the rooflike structure of a pergola can be used as a trellis for vines, providing a pleasant shaded area for people to gather.
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