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Garden journal entry


September 24, 2017. Our new Texas garden has less of most things than our first garden in Pennsylvania. It has less space for sure, less shade, fewer trees, less drainage, less snow... And most of the things it has more of are of questionable value to me: more heat, more overhead sun, more aggressive lawn grass, more fire ants, more dependence on tropical plantings. But of course there are a few positive "more"s too. And chief among those, I think, is "more vertical gardening space".
Our Allentown garden used hedges and low fences to delineate where our garden ended and the neighbors' garden started, with a spruce-lined berm defining the back edge. Those were great for backing mixed perennial borders, but I always struggled to find places to plant vines, especially ones that want to grow taller than our 4-foot fences.
Our Houston garden, by contrast, is boxed in by 6-foot privacy fences, as are all gardens in developments around here. That's a good thing – the homes are built so close together that not having that physical separation would really make it feel like you were living on top of each other. Although by themselves, or with lawn extending all the way to their base, the fences aren't particularly attractive, with garden borders at their feet, they make for a fine backdrop. But their real potential comes in their ability to support, with some added trellising, a wide variety of climbing, clambering, and twining plants. There are so many candidates (even more in this subtropical climate) that we could easily cover all those fence panels along the back, left, and right sides of the backyard with a colorful patchwork of vines. Thus far, we've tried a few, some more successfully than others.
The first one was Carolina jessamine, planted in March as a small plant. We gave it a prebuilt trellis to climb on, and now, at the end of summer, it's climbed all the way up and its stems are reaching in vain for more support, as the photo here shows. We're hoping for a marvellous show of golden flowers next spring! A second early purchase, a clematis, was not nearly as successful – even though its feet got some shade from nearby plants, it faded away in the heat of summer. While it's not quite dead, it never got around to growing upward on the supports I attached to the fence. Surprisingly, the mandevilla we planted, while seemingly happy to be alive, has not shown any inclination to climb; the same goes for an Arabian jasmin purchased as a small plant. We hold out hope for both of those next year, assuming we have a mild winter.
Other successes include a tempranillo grape, bought at a local grocery store as a small rooted cutting in spring, which has several vines climbing toward the top of the fence, and a cape honeysuckle. The latter is more a rambler than a vine, but it has gratefully taken advantage of a lattice panel we nailed to the fence, weaving itself through and allow it to colonize quite a large swath of fence. Unfortunately, it's not been inclined to bloom since shortly after we planted it in spring, but I assume it will do so (hopefully magnificently) at some point.
That only accounts for a tiny fraction of our fence, so we have lots more opportunities for vertical gardening. We'll be trying annuals and woody perennials, tropicals and temperate plants – plenty of fun ahead.

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Last modified: September 09, 2009
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