Once you've positioned that new trellis, waiting patiently for a vine to creep over it is out of the question. Search for flowering and fruit-bearing vines that grow at super-speed to cover the trellis in a wall of green and blossoms. Some fast-growing vines yield an early harvest of home-grown vegetables as well, and trellis training can prolong production throughout the summer.
Train Vines on Trellises
A trellis is a framework that supports a climbing vine or tall plants. It can be made of wood or bamboo, wire or metal, or plastic mesh; hung on the side of a house, fence or garage; posted to stand free along a walkway or in a garden; or shaped like a tepee to expose all sides of the vine to the sun or to view. Arbors and pergolas are closely related to flat trellises; they function the same way to support plants but add an overhead dimension -- an archway or a "roof" made of greenery and blossoms once the vines grow over them. Fast-growing vines can be trained to cover a trellis easily when you fasten the main stem to the framework and guide runners to cover all or part of the structure.
When your growing season is short, your landscaping is new or you're just impatient to live in a jungle, select vines that explode into greenery and flowers almost overnight.
- Thrill local hummingbirds with a honeysuckle vine. Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens, U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 10), with its graceful, hanging trumpet-shaped flowers, leaps up a 10- to 15-foot trellis in the space of a summer, and blooms all summer, from mid-June through September.
- Morning glory (Ipomoea purpura, USDA zones 9 through 11) grows like a weed in almost any soil, in full sun or partial shade. Its heart-shaped leaves and large, trumpet-shaped flowers will take over your trellis, seemingly overnight, in a blur of dark green and blue, pink, white, scarlet or magenta. The 3- to 5-inch flowers open every morning and slowly furl into evening, and you can grow them successfully on a trellis anchored in a large container.
- Related to morning glories, but with larger and showier blooms, moonflower vines (Ipomea alba, USDA zones 9 through 11) do a slow-motion unfurling at sunset to reveal spectacular 5 1/2-inch flowers, with closed blossoms in daylight. The vines reach 15 feet fairly quickly but are not lush and thick, so plant more than one for a large trellis to get an impressive evening display.
- Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora, USDA zones 6 through 10) shoots up to 30 feet tall and bulks out wide to overwhelm a trellis in just a couple of months. Always install more trellis than you think you'll need. The weight of a full-grown vine with its woody stem could topple a flimsy, poorly anchored or too small support. Clematis puts out lots of tiny white flowers, like a snowfall over the plant, in late summer to early fall.
Some species of honeysuckle, morning glory and clematis can be invasive in certain areas. Consult your nursery before planting, and keep the vines confined to the trellis garden area.
Veggie Vines at Warp Speed
Pole beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) will twine runners around a trellis and climb on their own. Most bean vines need a 5- to 8-foot tall trellis -- a flat trellis anchored in the ground or in a large planter, or a tepee-shaped trellis in the sunny middle of the veggie patch. Pole beans yield two to three times the harvest of ground-hugging bush beans, and it takes a month and a half to two months for the vines to grow, flower and produce edible bean pods. Snap, string, French and green beans are eaten young, right off the vine, and will produce for most of a growing season.
Peas (Pisum sativum) produce lush green vines with pretty flowers and types include sweet sugar snap peas, the humbler English or garden pea, and plain old green peas. Pea vines will reach 5 feet high on a trellis, and some are ready for picking in 55 days. Pea vines on trellises keep the blossoms and pods exposed to sun and air, limiting damage from pests and moisture.