Vine covered trellis and pergola Zone 6

mtnrdredux_gwMarch 21, 2012

This is only our second spring in our new home and I am trying to get the hang of some of the plantings. We have a gardener who comes regularly and has been with the property 15+ years, so of course that helps a lot.

One of my favorite features is our large pergola over a stone terrace and a trellised walkway. I was so distraught when, during construction, some GC's dog dug up several of the vines. I was under the impression that it was a multi year process to get the vines to cover over the pergola and trellis.

This spring our gardener cut off the tops of all of the vines, in order to power wash the white wooden structures, which have started to turn green from mold. I was so crushed! I love these vines, even dead in winter, they are so lovely.

Apparently they are clematis, and he says he usually cuts them this far back every year, but didn't last year because we hadn't moved in yet.

Is this the type of vine you would use? How do you balance wanting vine growht with preserving the structure?


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natal(Louisiana 8b)

With painted wood either you ignore the mold or you learn to live with the yearly pruning. Clematis fall into 3 different pruning groups. I'm only familiar with Group 3 which is typically hard pruned late winter/early spring.

Vine choices would depend on your zone. Aren't you on the east coast? I know you're not in zone 10.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 6:47PM
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I'm in zone 6. Is the mold just unsightly, or will not pruning ruin the structure?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 8:14AM
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roseberri, z6(6)

It may be bad for the structure and cause rotting if not periodically cleaned. But dont worry, most clematis are pretty tough and they will be as good as new soon. Depending on the group, it will delay the bloom and in some that are double you would not get double blooms but it will bloom and be fine.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 9:49AM
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Why don't you trust your gardener when he says he does it every year and the vines are fine with it? Some clematis' are supposed to be cut back every year. It makes them better.

If you want the wood to last you have to take care of it. The only other option is to go with annuals that are planted each year.

Our neighbors behind us had to do a lot of maintenance and replacing of structures this fall/winter due to a massive hail storm last summer. Both of the lady banks roses had to be pulled down--laid aside while they repaired and re stained the pergola. They're back up now and look just as good as they ever did.

Plants want to live, they want to grow and will do so as long as you don't kill them. :)

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 2:05PM
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Rose - I guess the question is, do i want clematis? What other choices are there?

Mel - I trust him but maybe the PO didnt want what I want .... I want the vines to cover more and more of the pergola each year. I don't want just one years vine growth each year. What would you put up?

thanks in advance

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 2:56PM
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hmm. Now you're making more sense to me. :)

If it were me, I wouldn't have a painted pergola.

I'd have a rustic one and cover it with Coral Honeysuckle/Trumpet Honeysuckle/ Lonicera sempervirens: for the humming birds.

Where I live it is ever green except in our worst winters which are infrequent. Not sure what it would do in your area.

This is not the Chinese or Japanese honeysuckle. Its a native one that has manners and behaves itself.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 3:14PM
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I dont think rustic would go with the house, plus I like the structures very much and they are in great condition.

I just assumed that the vines were a multiyear process and that one day theyd cover the pergola and almost be roof like. Maybe Ive seen too many movies? Or its not practical? Or cant be done in Zone 6?

The pergola in late summer, last year

The trellis in late summer

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 11:15PM
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roseberri, z6(6)

Well, I see what you are wanting but I'm not sure how the
maintenance issue would go. Ive seen wisterias do the job, but perhaps you should discuss it with your gardener?

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 7:53AM
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Hmm, wisteria. I will have to research that. In my last house there was a fabulous arboretum across the street with fabulous, massive wisteria vines .. perhaps 100 yrs old. But on stone columns!

It sounds like this is not as easy as it looks. Id love to hear from anyone else who has a painted wooden structure used this way, esp in the Northeast.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 9:28AM
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Have you considered a climbing rose? There are varieties that bloom all summer and some are partial shade tolerant.

Wisteria is lovely when it's in flower but in my neck of the woods, it can become quite invasive. Might not be a problem further north, but probably worth looking into.

Here is a link that might be useful: Climbing Roses

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 12:02PM
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I see why you love it. It sounds to me like the clematis is the way to go since its going to have to be painted from time to time and cutting back the clematis is what makes them more bushy and flower more. They do recover quickly. Perhaps a heavy dose of compost afterwards will help them recover and fill in faster?

Perhaps you won't have to paint every year but every few years?

Thanks for the photos, I loved seeing what you're describing. Very pretty setting.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 2:25PM
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Absolutely gorgeous!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 4:24PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Looking at the pictures, I'd say your gardener does good work! Trust him.... If you want fuller coverage on the top, just ask him in future years to just trim the vines as necessary to keep the spiral swag look on the columns but leave most of the top growth to give you a better 'roof'. Group 3 clematises are normally cut back hard in spring - but grow and flower just fine, in my experience, if left largely alone and just neatened up as needed. That's the way I treat mine. The only ones I cut back hard are the very vigorous Sweet Autumn and Paul Farges (a.k.a. Summer Snow) - and even those I don't cut back as hard as recommended. Do you know what varieties you have? What do the flowers look like?

We grew climbing roses (New Dawn) with clematis on our south gate arbour. The roses were beautiful - but too vigorous and TOO thorny. So in 2010 we cut everything back hard and removed the roses. The clematises grew back and bloomed as well as ever in 2011. So I wouldn't worry too much about the clematises there.

I grow both Chinese and Japanese wisteria - but only in 'tree/shrub' form. I would never grow them on a pergola because it would be way too much work to keep them properly pruned! If you have a gardener though, that might not be a big issue. However, I think clematis is the right choice for that pergola.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 10:35PM
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Clematis will need some hardpruning to grow back that's for certain. I do wonder what variety you have. Can you describe the colour of the flower? Is it single petalled or multi petalled?

I support the idea of the rose NEW DAWN especially when combined with clematis would be spectacular. There are pink hued New Dawns and there are white ones. Pink would look lovely here. In anycase, with a gardener coming every year, he would know how to remove the old canes and to control the growh of the roses. There are other types of climbers or rambler that are considered thornless.

But before you even begin planting, I would suggest getting a mildew resistant paint job on the columns. This would at least reduce the amount of fungus grown. After all, you wouldn't want this trellis to rot and fall apart. A woodstructure's greatest enemies is fungus growth and water. A good paint job will help it last longer.

Although Wisterias are beautiful against such a trellis, it does take over and can destroy the wood. Wisteria has a way of trangling whatever structure it climbs up on. It also takes 3 (for the Japanese varieties) to 10 years (for Chinese varieties) to bloom. It's best used against stone and metal structures.

I have the same opinion on climbing hydrangeas which puts out air roots to hold it fast to the wooden structure. Climbing hydrangeas can destroy wood and even brick.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:30AM
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The clematis is white. The only picture i could find in bloom is from last August. (below). Wow, a combo of roses and clematis?! I think Id love that. I will talk to him about it. He and his crew do all of the lawn and garden and tree work. We have roses in several spots already, some against stone walls and he does a nice job with them.

Mildew-resistant paint --- great idea, thanks.

Woodyoak - thank you, i love New Dawn!

Thanks Sweet, Melval and and Zoe!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 8:46PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

You do not have permission to change this pergola in any way.

Oh, sorry- I lost my head there for a minute. Please do not change your pergola in any way because it is absolutely magazine worthy, perfect, gorgeous, and planted with the perfect plant.

Clematis is the perfect vine for your pergola, which is incredibly beautiful, by the way. Did I already say that? Stunning. Clematis will not hurt the wood, the vines stay skinny and don't get old and woody, they don't attach onto surfaces and ruin them. These photos prove that you already have a perfect plant here. If your gardener did this, give him a raise. And a round of applause from me.

I would never plant a wisteria on it. They are thugs. The trunks on a wisteria would destroy your pergola and pull it apart and the plant would eat your house. No wisteria, ever, please, please. You would never be able to paint your perfect pergola again unless you cut the wisteria to the ground, and then it would not bloom for a long time. Wisterias are for public gardens.

Climbing roses are nice, but why? Why when you already have perfection? New Dawn is a HUGE rose, and like wisteria, it will eat the world.

I am assuming that the problem on the wood was moss (green) and not mold (black). Many of us try to grow moss on purpose. I even water down mossy green paint and rub it on stones and fences here to give a cool green effect (it's hot and dry here). I understand that it can be problematic on roofs and woodwork in some parts of the country, though.

Digging up ancient clematises is not allowed, and I don't understand why this person brought their destructive dog to work with them. Did he buy you new vines? You should certainly replace them with exactly the same thing. Your gardener will probably know what they are- they look like Sweet Autumn clematis. I would trust the gardener if he has this kind of success. Many clematises must be cut to the ground each year for the new growth to produce blooms.

Congratulations on your beautiful new home. I agree- the pergola is an enchanting feature. I'd love to see the rest of your garden.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:26PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Oh yeah, and as far as the canopy goes, your clematis are making a beautiful canopy. Many vines get dead material overhead and look awful. All of mine do- I don't look up, because there's a bunch of dead leaves and stems up there all of the time. Your canopy is fresh and green and perfect.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 10:42PM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

With the timing of bloom my guess would be Sweet Autumn too. I had a couple on my kitchen garden arbor, but after 2 years growth I could tell it was a clematis that needed more room.

Renee, mold is a real issue in humid climates. We washed the house last fall and I'm already seeing signs of it this spring. :(

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 10:49AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

That certainly looks like Sweet Autumn to me too - small, white, late summer flowers - are they scented too? That's a very vigorous vine and will have no trouble growing long enough in one season to grow back to the top after being cut down. But, as I mentioned above, you can create a fuller top by not cutting it down so low. I cut mine back to the top of the (4') chainlink fence it grows on.

I would not mix roses (especially New Dawn!) in with it. New Dawn is a very beautiful rose but it is very vigorous and VERY thorny! We dug ours out eight or nine years after we planted them. The canes had got so numerous and heavy that we were starting to be concerned the weight of them would bring down the arbour! It was dangerous to walk through the arbour because of the constant production of new stems with vicious thorns, waving about trying to grab anyone passing by! We tied them to swag chains for a few years to try to control them. That produced a pretty effect but was a lot of work to maintain - pruning to maximize flowering can be a bloody (literally!) difficult job. If I had a ~4' tall rail fence that was easily accessible from both sides, that's where I'd plant New Dawn. It flowers best on stems grown horizontally so if it was tied along a rail fence, that would be perfect to maximize production of the flowering laterals. And having easy access from both sides of a relatively short fence would make it easy to prune back the laterals and remove old canes as necessary. If you have somewhere like that, that is where you need to plant New Dawn, not somwhere where all the maintenance would need to be done from a ladder.

Stick with the clematis. It's friendly - no thorns! It's relatively easy care. It's very forgiving if it needs to be cut back hard to allow maintenance of the pergola. If you want to jazz it up a bit, you could add some other ones in different colors that would bloom at different times. That would complicate things re pruning them because earlier blooming ones would not want to be cut back hard each year so it would be hard to tell what to cut and what not to cut. But, if you cut the SAC high, if you cut some of the others at the same time, it likely wouldn't matter too much as there would still be 'old wood' for them to flower on. 'The President' is a good, vigorous group 2 that blooms deep purple-blue in late May/early June that would likely combine happily with the SAC. I had to cut mine back to about 2' last spring and figured I'd lose the flowers for the year. It didn't bloom at its usual time but did bloom well in early July.

As Renee said - you've got a geat thing there - don't mess with it too much!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 11:03AM
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Thanks everyone. My gardener and his crew are great, and don't worry - they are appreciated. It's just that I have no gardening expertise and when I came home and saw my pergola and trellis denuded I was literally in tears. I have enjoyed looking at them all through the winter, dead as they were.

I will now take a deep breath and accept that there will be a time of year where my pergola and trellis will be somewhat denuded, in the interest of maintaining the pretty white wooden backdrop. Although I respect my gardener, he is self-taught and so I thought it was entirely possible that there were options out there of which he was not aware (or which the PO rejected for some reason). Having explored and googled a bit and read your comments, we will sit tight with what we have.

Hose - LOL, thank you. We deserve no credit for the scences you see; and they are a key part of the entire magical look of this property which compelled us to but the house and move our family here totally on a lark!
The contractor did replace the vines, btw. I will post a link with more photos for you.

Natal - not too humid here in CT. I like the green moss myself, but I guess the clematis against true white is even niceer.

Woody - yes, its scented. It was cut back pretty much to the top of the columns. Duly noted on the roses. I think i might have New Dawn elsewhere already. It is very pale pink and smells wonderful!

I am just finding my way with our property, which is extensively landscaped. I hired a landscape architect who had done our old home, and his ideas were way too formal and structured. So I've not implemented them. Then I got someone at my local nursey to draw plans for some beds on the far side of the pond. They were not woodland at all, and they had way too much variety of plant material for an area I want to be pretty but natural.

I can tell this is going to be a long process getting everything the way I want it and, as always, there is no substitute for the unbiased expertise of GW. Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 3:31PM
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sorry, terrible typing on my ipad!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 3:33PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Thanks! I'll be on the lookout.
Very good info about mold, natal. I had no idea.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 8:35PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Your pergola is absolutely gorgeous!! I wish I lived closer, I'd give an eyetooth to help you with designs!!!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2012 at 12:00AM
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