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The Versatile Climbing Vine – Beautify Fences, Pergolas, and More

The Joys of a Climbing Vine

Right now my yard is the prettiest it will be all year. While many of my plants are just beginning to grow and bloom, it’s the roses that are stealing the show. I have a dozen different varieties of named roses on my property, and a couple that I really have no idea about. Some are pink, some are red, and some are pink and red at the same time. I also have white ones and apricot-colored ones. About the only color I don’t currently have is yellow.

Climbing Pinkie’s almost thornless canes make it the perfect choice for fences, arbors, and trellises. While I love all of my roses, each year one of them does something to make me notice it all over again. This year, the rose that has most impressed me is Climbing Pinkie.

My first Climbing Pinkie was a gift from Martin Anderson at AM Roses. He took cuttings from his bush and shared them with several of us. I planted my “pass-along” rose in front of one of my picket fences three years ago. Then two years ago, I won another one at our church picnic and planted it beside the first one. While they did ok, I would not say that I was overly impressed with them.

This year, Climbing Pinkie has made up for its slow start. Both of my bushes have sent out many, many long canes that have created cascades of beautiful pink roses that drape over my fences. When I built the picket fence three years ago, I had visions of it covered in running roses. I can honestly say this is the first time they have looked the way I hoped they would when I built them, and I have Climbing Pinkie to thank for it.

The Versatility of Climbing Pinkie

Climbing Pinkie is a garden favorite that was introduced in 1952. Since then, its nearly thornless canes and ever-blooming sprays of rose-pink flowers have made it a favorite of gardeners around the world. Climbing Pinkie is mostly known for its 12-foot canes that are very easy to train over your arbors or pergolas. However, it is much more than a mere climber.

This beautiful rose can be planted to make a beautiful bush. It can also be planted along a ledge to create beautiful, falling cascades. In fact, it is so versatile that you can plant several of them together to create a beautiful, almost ever-blooming hedge. Climbing Pinkie is a polyantha rose, meaning it blooms in clusters from spring through first frost.

If you want to grow this rose, plant it in full sun in soil that has been well-worked with organic material. While the compost will provide all of the nutrients the plant needs, it will also allow it to be grown in areas that have high salinity in their water supplies. Climbing Pinkie and most other polyanthas grow new canes from the base of the plant. To ensure the best blooms possible, remove old canes after the spring bloom is complete.

The long, cascading canes of Climbing Pinkie even make my propane tank look good. Like most of the heirloom roses, Climbing Pinkie is resistant to most of the pests that plague hybrid roses. While resistant to things like blackspot, it is not immune to it. For this reason, you should always water it and all roses from below. Roses can also be bothered by aphids and spider mites. You can control these by applying a hard spray of water to the underside of their leaves every two or three days. If you need to spray for these pests, do it in the morning so the foliage has time to dry out during the day.

Clematis – A Versatile Companion Vine

Clematis is another genus of flowering vines that come in an impressive array of shapes, sizes, and bloom times, making them a highly versatile plant for the garden. Known for their showy flowers that range from delicate pastels to bold, vibrant hues, clematis vines can be used in a variety of ways to enhance any outdoor space.

Clematis come in a wide range of growth habits, from compact and bushy varieties to more vigorous, rambling types. This diversity allows gardeners to select the perfect clematis for their specific needs, whether that’s covering a bare wall, spilling over the edge of a container, or providing a focal point in a mixed border.

Clematis offer an extended flowering season, with some varieties blooming in the spring, others in the summer, and a few even producing a second flush of flowers in the fall. This extended bloom time ensures that gardeners can enjoy the beauty of clematis throughout much of the growing season.

One of the key benefits of clematis is their ability to climb, allowing gardeners to maximize vertical space. These vines can be trained to climb up trellises, arbors, fences, or even other plants, creating stunning displays that draw the eye upward. This versatility makes clematis an excellent choice for small gardens where space is limited, as well as larger landscapes where they can be used to add height and visual interest.

Clematis vines are also a beautiful and practical choice for creating natural privacy screens around your outdoor living spaces. With their lush foliage and stunning flowers, these hardy climbing plants offer an elegant solution to block unwanted views and provide a sense of seclusion. Many varieties can climb up to 10-15 feet in a single season, quickly establishing a dense, vertical barrier.

While these beautiful flowering plants are often associated with trellises and arbors, they can also thrive when grown in containers. Proper soil preparation is key to successful container clematis. Use a well-draining potting mix amended with compost or other organic matter to provide the necessary nutrients. Clematis prefer slightly acidic soil, so consider incorporating a bit of peat moss or pine bark into the mix. They also need adequate support, so install a sturdy trellis, obelisk, or cage within the pot to give the vines something to climb.

Clematis can even be used as a groundcover, providing lush, trailing coverage for bare spots in your garden. The dense, spreading growth of clematis vines can effectively block sunlight from reaching the soil, making it difficult for unwanted plants to take hold. This can be particularly useful in areas prone to weed overgrowth, helping to maintain a tidy, well-kept appearance.

When planning a mixed border with clematis, it’s important to consider the mature size and growth habits of the vines. Some varieties are more vigorous than others, so it’s crucial to choose a spot where the clematis can thrive without overwhelming its neighbors. Proper support, such as sturdy trellises or wires, is also essential for the vines to climb and display their flowers to their full potential.

Whether you’re looking to add a touch of elegance to a trellis, create a stunning floral display in a container, or incorporate a striking accent plant into your garden design, clematis are a versatile and rewarding choice that can enhance any outdoor space. With their diverse range of growth habits, bloom times, and color options, there’s a clematis for every gardener’s needs.

Shallots – The Unsung Hero of the Potager

I love my little potager. It is truly the best gardening gift that I have ever given to myself. Not only does it provide my wife and I with all of the veggies, herbs, and flowers that we need, but it also allows me to constantly experiment with plant selection and design concepts. Even though I want to produce as much food as possible in my small space, it is just as important to me that the beds of my potager are as attractive as they are functional.

Every August and February, I get out my graph paper and sketch out where I want to plant the several varieties of plants that I am going to grow. I pick plants that are tall and plants that are small. I will find plants that have interesting textures or colors that will break up all of the green in the beds. Even though I try several different varieties in each design, the one plant that I use in each and every one of my garden designs are shallots.

Shallots are the perfect plant for the potager. They are highly productive, easy to care for, have very few issues with disease or pests, and their upright foliage is the perfect border. I use shallots in my designs much like most folks use mondo or liriope in their flower beds. Last year, I used them to line the fronts of my exterior beds. This year, I am using them as a middle planting in my triangular beds.

The design for my triangular beds is based on the Thriller, Filler, and Spiller design model. The beds will be made up of three different types of plants. I have selected cauliflower for the Thriller component of the bed. I love the large scale and coarse texture of cauliflower, and it will contrast nicely with the upright form of the shallots that I am using as my Filler. The outside border will have different varieties of leaf lettuce and spinach, acting as the Spiller.

Shallots, also known as Allium cepa var. aggregatum, are often called “dividing onions.” They grow in clusters of offsets that make them look somewhat like garlic when harvested. Technically a perennial, they will continue to divide as long as they are left in the ground. Because of this, I never harvest all of my shallots. I always leave a few in the ground until I am ready to replant in the fall. This year, I pulled up a single clump that had 43 offsets.

Additionally, shallots are extremely cold hardy. Last winter was brutally cold by Texas standards. It got down to 18°F at my house, and we had several days below 24°F. Still, my shallots thrived. I got my original shallots from Plants and Things nursery in Brenham. They are the only folks in the area that carry shallots. In fact, they grow them in their own garden on the back of the nursery property.

This year, I needed a few more shallots to finish my bed design, so I stopped in and visited with Mary Stolz. She told me that the shallots they sell came from a start she got several years ago at a Master Gardeners event. Through the years, those few starts have yielded enough for them to be able to eat all they want and still offer plenty to their customers. In spite of this year’s drought, they have harvested three wash tubs full of these tangy little onions. That should tell you a lot about how prolific and reliable these small bulbing onions are.

Shallots are grown just like regular onions, except you don’t have to worry about any day length issues. Plant them in the fall for an early summer harvest. Do not plant them in soil that has been recently manured. Shallots should be planted with the root scar down and the pointy end up, stuck in the ground deep enough to just cover the top of the offset.

Just like regular onions, the tops of the shallots will fall over when they are ready to harvest. However, you do not have to wait until they are fully mature to enjoy them. My wife and I use young shallots just like we use green onions. The tops are excellent chopped into a salad, and the young offsets have a very strong flavor that I enjoy raw.

Since shallots are actually onions, they can be cured for later use. Cure your shallots just like you would cure any other onion. The only difference in curing them as opposed to regular onions is that you need to divide your clumps into individual offsets before you cure them. Cured shallots can last up to six months if kept in a cool, dark place.

Another advantage that shallots have over regular onions is their ability to withstand your freezer. My wife and I chop up several small Ziploc baggies full of shallots and then stick them in the freezer. This makes it very easy for us to use them later in eggs, soups, and casseroles. They do lose a little of their texture when frozen, but they maintain that spicy flavor very well.

Store-bought shallots are very expensive. If you eat a lot of shallots, then they are one of the few vegetables that you can grow and truly save money in the process. Because they are so productive, carefree, tasty, and ornamental, shallots have earned the title of the only vegetable that has a guaranteed spot in my fall garden. Why don’t you stop by Plants and Things today and give them a try in your own garden?

Oxblood Lilies – A Seasonal Delight

Each fall in Central Texas, bright red trumpets herald the approach of autumn. These trumpets are the deep red flowers of the Oxblood lily. Oxbloods seem to be a bit of a regional secret. I grew up in Waco and was not familiar with them until I moved to Brenham.

The house that we bought was on an almost bald hill. The previous owner was not much of a gardener. However, he apparently liked bulbs. The first fall that we were there, we discovered that he had left us red spider lilies (Lycoris radiata), yellow spider lilies (Lycoris aurea), and oxbloods. I instantly fell in love with these extraordinary plants.

Oxbloods are often called “Schoolhouse Lilies” because the bulbs send up their stalks right around the start of the school year. Like rain lilies, their bloom is in response to the first fall rains. However, since there have been no fall rains this year, they will apparently also bloom in response to a good fall watering.

Another of their common names is “Hurricane Lily.” Since most of the rain that falls in the Gulf South in August is the result of a late-season hurricane, this is also a very appropriate name. Oxbloods are native to South America. An early German-Texan horticulturist named Peter Oberwetter is believed to be the first to import the oxbloods from Argentina. Due to his efforts, the oxblood has been very popular in the areas of Texas originally settled by German settlers.

While they are gaining acceptance around the South and Central US, oxbloods have flourished in places like Brenham, La Grange, Independence, Round Top, and Austin for the last 150 years. Oxbloods naturalize and reproduce readily. In fact, they are so hardy and so prolific that Scott Ogden says, “No other bulb can match the fierce vigor and adaptability of the oxblood lily.” Because of their tenacity and adaptability, oxbloods have become one of the most common “pass-along” plants in Texas.

Most of the people that have them got them as a division from someone else. Finding a friend with a well-established bed is still the best way to get them for your own garden, as they are somewhat difficult to find in the nursery trade. However, some specialty bulb growers like The Southern Bulb Company now offer them for sale online.

Oxbloods are very easy to grow and they are very reliable. Their growth habit is just like that of other fall-blooming bulbs. The flowers appear on a single, bald stalk in the fall, often accompanied by two long leaves. After the flowers die, the rest of the foliage begins to appear. The foliage grows into a clump of long, thin, deep green leaves that resemble mondo or liriope, lasting until June. After that, the foliage dies back, and the bulbs become dormant.

Oxblood bulbs have a dark, black skin that makes them fairly easy to identify. The bulbs prefer full sun but can tolerate light shade. In fact, most of the ones I see are massed around the trunks of old live oaks. Oxbloods do best in rich, well-drained soil, but they will grow in just about anything. Plant your mature bulbs about three inches deep with the neck slightly exposed.

Oxbloods do not require any special care. Once planted, provide regular water for the first year. Once established, they will survive and even thrive on normal rainfall. Oxbloods can be dug and divided just about any time, but June is the optimal time. This is when the foliage dies back, making it easier to work with the bulbs.

These bright red trumpets are a true delight each fall. Their reliable, carefree nature and their ability to naturalize and spread make them a must-have for any garden in Central and South Texas. Whether you tuck them beneath the canopy of an old live oak or plant them in drifts along a fence row, oxblood lilies are a sure sign that autumn is on its way. Why not add a touch of seasonal beauty to your garden with these versatile and enchanting bulbs?

Cleome – The Deer-Resistant Showstopper

If you are looking for a large-scale plant that can tolerate a drought, resist deer and other pests, bloom until late summer, and then reseed itself, then Cleome may be the plant for you. Cleome is a large-scale flower that can reach 6 feet in a good season. Their blooms come in different shades of pink, ranging from deep magenta to almost white.

As the flower matures, it will generally have three shades of pink on it at a single time. The flowers grow in clusters that move up the stalk as the plant matures. As the flowers move up the stalk, they leave behind very long and slender seed pods that give the plant its common name, “spider plant.”

Cleome’s large stature and large, colorful flower heads allow it to be used in mass as a lovely, stand-alone plant. However, because of its sheer size, it is one of the few annual

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