ShadyGardens Blog

July 15, 2012

Invasive Plant Alternatives #2: Climbers

Filed under: clematis, Honeysuckle, invasive, Japanese, jasmine, Lonicera, native, noninvasive, Passionvine, vines, wisteria — shadygardens @ 2:01 pm
As written in my previous post, many popular landscape plants seem harmless, yet they are actually invasive plants that move quickly into the surrounding areas to crowd out native plant species. Once established, these plants are capable of strangling trees and covering up native plant species on which many of our beneficial insects and wild animals depend for their survival. This change to our environment could drastically alter our eco-system.

These popular invasive vines have a native alternative that is far superior in both beauty and behavior.

In this second installment of my 3 part series on Invasive Plant Alternatives, I intend to share some information about popular climbing vines and some alternatives to use instead of the invasive varieties.

Japanese Honeysuckle appeals to many gardeners due to its fast-growing habit and its sweetly scented blooms, but that aggressive nature and rapid growth are what has caused it to take over the South. Japanese Honeysuckle is one of the most common nuisance plants, yet it is still sold in garden centers everywhere!

I can think of quite a few good alternatives for this garden thug, but these are my favorites:
Lonicera Sempervirens
Shady Gardens Nursery
  • American Native Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, shown in the photo above, is one of the best hummingbird magnets I know of, with its large red tubular flowers that come almost year round in my garden. (There were a few blooms on mine even in January here in West Central Georgia!) If red is not your color, Lonicera sempervirens is available in a yellow blooming selection called John Clayton.
  • Carolina Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is an evergreen vine native to the Southeastern United States with bright yellow blooms in early Spring and sporadically throughout Spring into Fall.
  • Clematis is available in many varieties, both native and non-native species and a wide selection of colors. All are lovely–none are invasive.
  • Passionvine is another native perennial vine with very showy, large purple flowers and attractive, edible fruits. This vine will self-sow, but never crowds out its neighbors. Stems are delicate enough that this plant can be allowed to climb through shrubs and trees abundantly without worry of damage to the support plant.
  • American wisteria (Yes, I did say wisteria!!) is a native vine that is just as beautiful as the Chinese and Japanese wisteria, but is not invasive at all. The blooms are very fragrant. You might see it sold as Amethyst Falls wisteria, but don’t be afraid to plant it. Avoid Chinese and Japanese wisteria, because I can show you how it’s taking over much forestland in Alabama and Georgia, strangling and pulling down trees, much like kudzu.

If you have an arbor or trellis that could use some ornamentation, choose one of these climbing vines for your garden. You won’t regret it.

July 7, 2012

Wisteria: Romance for the Southern Garden

Filed under: amethyst, falls, frutescens, gardens, invasive, noninvasive, nursery, Shady, sources, wisteria — shadygardens @ 1:50 pm
Wisteria Amethyst Falls
Shady Gardens Nursery
What could be more romantic than sitting with your true love beneath an arbor draped with sweetly scented lilac blooms swaying in the light Spring breeze?

Romantic and old-fashioned,
wisteria vine is often seen in southern gardens climbing arbors, porch
railings, and even trees.

Usually what we find is an imported and very aggressive plant from China or Japan. Beautiful and romantic, yes. Well-behaved and mild-mannered, no. 

Let me introduce you to a true Southern Beauty, the Southern Belle of climbing vines, Wisteria frutescens. This American Native Wisteria is a rare plant native to the Southeast, but she is seldom found growing in the wild. It is not the plant covering up trees along roadsides in Georgia and Alabama—that’s the Asian one. 

‘Amethyst Falls’ Wisteria
is a cultivar of that rare American Native Wisteria. It is much less aggressive
than the Asian counterpart, therefore making it a much wiser selection for your

Blooms are 5 inch long clusters
of lilac flowers appearing in late spring and sporadically throughout the summer. 

American Wisteria can eventually climb to 40 feet, but it is easy to control with pruning. This well-mannered Southern plant is lovely on a strong arbor or pergola, but it is easy to train as a tree-form standard.  An arbor of cedar posts or iron would make a lovely accent in the garden when covered with Amethyst Falls Wisteria.

Our native Wisteria can be grown anywhere in the Southern States, for it is hardy in USDA Zones 7 – 9. It should be sited in full sun or light shade. Morning sun with afternoon shade is ideal for gardens in the Deep South. Any well-drained soil will do. Regular water is needed only in the beginning when the plant is establishing to its new home. American Wisteria is very drought tolerant once established.

Every garden should have a lovely place to sit on a cool morning while planning out the days activities. Or perhaps you would prefer a spot to unwind in the evening after a long day’s work. No matter what your gardening style, make your special place an arbor covered with the beautiful, romantic, yet mild-mannered native American Wisteria Amethyst Falls.

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