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Mother Earth News Fair

Our FAIRS bring living wisely to life with hands-on workshops in organic gardening, country skills, renewable energy and more.

Supporting Roles in the Garden and Flowering Annual Vines of Summer

Lorene Edwards Forkner bamboo support

Supporting Roles in the Garden  

Any heartfelt passion has its control issues and gardening is no exception. Nurseries and garden centers stock elaborate devices for staking, tying up plants, trussing tomatoes, and restraining plant growth. But, put these gadgets in place when they should be – that is, well before plants burst into growth – and the garden quickly starts looking like a scantily-clad, pretty girl wearing only foundation garments; it’s hard to see anything but the support.  

On the other hand, anyone who has tried to right a toppled delphinium after a summer cloudburst or revive flattened peonies after a stiff wind – or a dog – has swept through the garden knows it’s almost impossible to navigate crowded beds without doing more damage than you set out to repair. The resulting tangle of twine, sticks and awkward plants-in-bondage paints a picture every bit as painfully self-conscious as half-naked artifice. 

Enter attractive easy to assemble garden structures that attractively stake, prop and gently guide plants while never stealing the spotlight from the beautiful garden starlets they support. As an encore, these simple structures provide valuable vertical growing space for plants that might otherwise smother the ground and steal the scene.

Flowering Annual Vines of Summer

Lorene Edwards Forkner flowering vines Easy to grow, lush foliage, bountiful blooms and nearly instant impact all in a single growing season – what’s not to like?! Here are some of my favorites: 

Canary climber (Tropaeolum peregrinum) Fluttery dark yellow flowers really do resemble little canaries clinging to stems clothed with serrated bright green leaves. Grows 8 to10 feet in partial shade to full sun. 

Cardinal climber aka hearts & honey (Ipomoea × multifida) Tiny, vivid crimson trumpet flowers attract hummingbirds when nothing else will on this vigorous morning glory cousin. Grows 10 to 20 feet in full sun. 

Climbing nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) Funnel-shaped blooms in shades of orange, red, and yellow reliably swathe scrambling vines all summer long. Grows 6 to 8 feet in partial shade to full sun. Bonus, both leaves and blossoms have a peppery watercress flavor and are delicious in salads. 

Cup & saucer vine (Cobaea scandens) Pale creamy green flowers develop violet stripes on their way to becoming deep purple “cup and saucer” blooms. Grows 8 to12 feet in full sun.  

Exotic love or Spanish flag (Ipomoea lobata) Multicolored spikes of blossoms change in a rainbow-like progression from red to orange, yellow, and cream set off by deep green lobed leaves. Grows to 15 feet in full sun. 

Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea) Saucer-shaped flowers in the colors of a summer sky are produced anew each morning on this old-fashioned cottage garden favorite. Grows 8 to10 feet in full sun. Not to be confused with nasty bindweed, a noxious weed. 

Purple hyacinth bean (Dolichos lab lab) Large pendant racemes of purple or white flowers stand out from dusky, heart-shaped leaves followed by curious dark-purple bean pods with a metallic sheen. Grows to 10 feet in partial shade to full sun. 

Scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) Brilliant sprays of scarlet blossoms, another hummingbird favorite are produced from mid-summer to frost on vigorous twining vines. Plump meaty pods swell with “magic beans” beautifully marked with hot pink and black – possibly Jack’s original beanstalk! Grows 10 to 12 feet (quickly) in full sun.  

Excerpted from Handmade Garden Projects: Step-by-Step Instructions for Creative Garden Features, Containers, Lighting & More by Lorene Edwards Forkner, Timber Press 2011.

Lorene Edwards Forkner presented workshops at the Puyallup, Wash. 2012 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR.

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about the Seven Springs, Pa., FAIR Sept. 24-25. Tickets are on sale now.

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