Newbie here -- vine to grow on large dead tree?

althea08May 16, 2008

Hello to all :)

I am new to the forum. I apologize ahead of time if my question has been addressed in another post -- I did spend over an hour researching old posts and was not able to find the specific information I would like. Again, I do apologize for any redundancy! I am looking for any/all advice, experiences, photos, wisdom, tips, ect on the following questions:

1. I am working on a smaller bird/butterfly perrenial bed(first year, new plants of: ruby star coneflower, black eyed susan, white swan coneflower, blue star, brown eyed susan, and meadow sage) that is growing halfway around the base--other side is a sloped road bank--of a large (approx. 30-40 feet high and 4 feet diameter?) mostly dead decidous tree (was struck by lightening and is black and charred around the trunk, but does have leaves on the top branches). What vine would be a good choice to plant at the base to climb up and around thi large tree? I know that it should be a woody/strong vine--or I think so from my research on this forum and elsewhere on the web.

2. How do I plant the vine to get it to actually grow onto and up/around the tree? What type of support should I start training it on so that it does not just grow in a crazy, shrubby clump at the base and onto the ground to take over my flowers?

3. In general, how do I train a vine?

4. Not a question, but I just wanted to mention that I ONLY want to plant natives to the Eastern US (Chester County, Pennsylania) I would also much prefer a perrenial vine, as I want something permanent that I do not need to replant/train every year.

I have planted an American Wisteria ("American Beauties"--the label on the container and they have a website, Amethyst Falls variety) at the base of a column that supports the pergola over my front patio. It is growing very well and there are already many large buds on it that have not totally opened to flowers though. However, I do not understand how to get it to actually start climbing the column vertically (the column is square and each side is about 10''. I tied it with thick hemp twine to the column, but the growth seems to have slowed and it is not twining around the column so much. Did I make a mistake in tying it (not too tight, but firmly supported)? Should I put a trellis up to train it upwards? Should I prune it? Apologies for the string of questions, but I am a little frustrated since it had been growing so well and has slowed since I tried to "train" it. I thought that Wisteria twined around supports? Once it climbs about 10 feet it can (I hope) gp horizontally across the top of the pergola.

I would GREATLY APPRECIATE any and all help/advice/instructions! I'm fairly new to gardening in general and really do not know a lot, but have done a good deal of reading and research here and in books, and many other websites. THANK YOU VERY, VERY MUCH!!

Kind Regard-


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How about hops or passionflower. Both are host plants for butterflies. Another native is pipevine..also a host plant. You might need to attach pea netting to the tree to get the vines started growing on it. Another native that will grow up a tree in a heartbeat is trumpet vine. That attracts hummers but can be aggressive and spread a lot.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 1:13PM
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toad08(7 South Carolina)

I know that Virginia Creeper will grow up a live Populus 'Poplar Tree' but don't know if a Virginia Creeper will grow up a dead tree.
What USDA plant zone is Chester County, Pennsylania? I don't think maypops will grow in your area.
Some ivies might grow in your area.
In my opinion I wouldn't plant a Wisteria anywhere near my house. Wisteria is best left growing out in the wild.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 10:31PM
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Before you grow any vines up that tree, if that tree is by a road and it was struck by lightning, and you see signs of it dying, I think you should call an arborist to look at it to see if you should have it removed.
If the tree falls, and you say it's 30-40 feet tall, you are responsible for the damage to a car or person.
Call a reputable lawn service in your area and ask for an arborist to come out and look at the tree to see if it is safe or not.
If he says it is safe, go to your local nursery and ask about climbing hydrangea.
Look it up online.
It it gorgeous and will climb that tree all by itself, with no help from you. You will love it!
You can't grow a wisteria around a 10 inch square post.
It is a twining vine, which means it needs something to twine around, and a 10" square post is too thick.
You could go to all the trouble of buying a thinner material to twine it around and fasten it to the 10" square post if you want, it needs something "thinner " to twine on.
Wisteria can become very heavy after a couple years and grow vigiorously for you, so you will have to be able to trim it from growing all over your house eventually. Do you have a ladder?
My girlfriend has one growing up the front entrance way, she ran some thin wire for it to climb on, but she has a ladder.(she's not afraid of heights, I am)
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2008 at 1:33AM
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Thank you, ghoghunter (Joann), toad08 (crazy that we're both 08s!), and butterfly4u for you replies and advice. I really do appreciate your wisdom, as I am really pretty new to gardening (though, I am finding it to be an addictive, enjoyable--but expensive :)--hobby! I am sorry that it has taken me this long to say thank you and address each of your posts.

ghoghunter- I had heard of dutchman's pipe and I do like it. I will do some more research on it a a climber for my tree. I do know a bit about trumpet vine as well--my mother has one growing on a large brush pile she has at the back of her 6 acre property and it is absolutely gorgeous. I would love to plant trumpet vine...but the tree is too close to my house and I know it spreads like wildfire, so that is not an option. Thanks again for your suggestions!

toad08- Chester County, PA is in zone 6--sorry I forgot to include that! I was under the impression that American Wisteria is "safer" :) and much less aggressive than Chinese Wisteria/non-native wisteria? The woman at the garden center where I purchased it said that growing it on my pergola would be fine, but that some pruning would be necesary of course. Maybe I am too naive and she was just making a sale :) Could you tell me a little more about the differences between American and Chinese wisteria? I have done some research on the web and did not find anything to make me think planting it where I did was a huge mistake. Please take no offense--I'm not trying to sound rude at all! I just want to know from an experienced gardener their personal experiences with American wisteria vs. Chinese, ect. Since we are not in the same zone though...not sure how that affects the question/answers... Thanks again for all!

butterfly4u- Wow! Thank you for so much input! I will talk to someone about my dead tree before I go through with any planting of any vine. The tree is not totally dead though, I've come to realize more and more. There are lots of leaves on the side that was not struck by lightening and it looks healthy besides the charred side (not the whole side either, just a blaze) So, perhaps I need not worry about the tree so much as worrying about not killing it further with a vine? I would just like to conceal the charring. But, again, I will most defidenly consult a professional first--I feel stupid b/c I never even thought of that! Thank you!!

I did look up the climbing hydrangea and it is lovely! I will consider it for the tree (if I am given the go-ahead) but for sure another spot in the yard--I have a tall fence that could use some sprucing up...would this vine work for that spot (7' tall, flat panel pine privacy fence)? Any further advice or experience would be very much appreciated!

As for the I said above, I thought that American Wisteria was much less agressive and safe for the house than a non-native wisteria? Well, mayber dumb question, as you stated that your girlfriend has one that she uses a ladder to reach to prune--sorry!! I'm fine with ladders/heights, so that is not an issue. How should I help the wisteria to climb up to the actual pergola since it cannot climb the square post? The post may not even be 10" on each small an object does a wisteria need to twine around? I thought since it was so heavy a vine that a larger object would be good? I know the stems become very thick. You know more than me though...please advise as to what material (sorry, oh god--you said wire! I'm sorry to be so careless!--see last sentence please) to attach to the post to get it to climb and how to actually train the vine onto that object, if you can--much appreciated! **How do I attach the wire and what kind of wire? Not to be completely sounding idiotic...but, like how much space between the post so the vine can twine between the wire and post? Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Kind Regards--

    Bookmark   May 29, 2008 at 9:44PM
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They have all kinds of wire for climbing usually at Walmart or Home Depot.
THey also have this really cool "invisible wire" that you can buy online, alot of people use it because you can't see what the vine is climbing on and it looks awsome it you just run it through an open area, the vine looks like it is growing in mid air.
Someone from Garden web has pics of it in this forum.
Anyway, back on subject, you can use anything sturdy enough to hold the vine and just tack it to the posts, or hang it right next to the post.
The wisteria grows COUNTER clockwise by the way.
I guess this is important.
My friend told me that. If you try to train it, put it counter clockwise up the twine or wire or whatever you decide to try. Then it will grow on it's own.
The climbing hydrangea would Love a wood fence.
The climbing medium has to be pourous, stay wet when you hose it down. It will not damage the fence or wall, but it has to stay wet after a rain so the little "feet" can attach themselves to the fence.
I saw one in bloom at a nursery recently, and it was so beautiful! Pics online doesn't do it justice.
Welcome to the Addiction.
I am a plant addict. I love it.
Oh, by the way, I grow native honeysuckle on a chainlink fence and it has been blooming for weeks! The hummingbirds and bees are enjoying it to no end!
You might want to try that on your tree. It doens't get heavy like other vines and flowers all summer!
Check out the pics of native honeysuckle at Brushwood nursery online. They only sell native honeysuckles.
They aren't like the invasive honeysuckles, very non aggresive, but they do grow nice in full sun.
Brushwood nursery has a lot of nice healthy vines, that is basically all they sell.
GOod Luck to You!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2008 at 10:37PM
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butterfly4u -

THANK YOU! You are so helpful! I am going to Lowes today to get some wire for my wisteria. Maybe another stupid question...but when you say that wisteria grows counterclockwise...does that mean it must be trained that way and only that way? Mine has branches (correct term? sorry I'm such a rookie!) going both ways...does this mean I have to prune it to train it? It is blooming all over the place right now--would it be a vine no-no to prune while it is in bloom? The thing is beautiful and growing very, very has only been it the ground for a month and 1/2 (maybe!) I know I need to get it trained and going "correctly" or how I want it before it grows too big! If you're not sure, could you check with your girlfriend who has it growing?? I'd really appreciate it!

Glad to talk to another plant addict! Although, I guess we are in the right place for that! I am just smitten with gardening!! I even enjoy the weeding and not-so-fun necessary evils--oh god, I am such an addict...are there meetings for this? :) My boyfriend and I just bought our house (December) and with Spring and now summer on the way...the outdoor work is priority. I just love it. I can't go to the garden center without going crazy so I have to restrain myself and stay away!

Where is SE PA do you live? I wonder if we are close? I am in Cochranville, PA. If you don't want to say--that's cool--just curious!

I do have a native honeysuckle-lonicera semperviens (sp?) and it is the coral colored one--so pretty! I did have it planted by the tree and going up a wood trellis...but it was starting to get sickly looking...I don't really know why, but the leaves looked like something was eating them and it looked "confused" on how to keep groing up the trellis. It took off like a rocket (planted about the same time as the wisteria, 1.5 months ago tops) and was (and is still) blooming...but it just started to go down hill after a while? Not sure what the deal was...but I dug it up and moved it and the trellis against the front wall of our stucco house (SW exposure) It has not grown anymore though and I don't know if I did a bad thing by moving it? Any advice on this? I didn't think that these native honeysuckle grew too tall (10-20' is what I've read) Also, the tree is so big in diameter and height...the trumpet honeysuckly could never cover it as I would like. And, I thought (newbie and dumb!) that it would twine around the tree trunk! Opps.

Anyway, gotta run...but thank you so much again! Please advise on anything further if you feel like it.

Kind Regards-

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 10:53AM
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Climbing Hydrangea is not a native. We do have a similar vine that is native to your area - Decumara barbara aka Wood Vamp. Plus its flowers are scented. It requires no mesh or wire to attach itself to a tree as it climbs by rootlets and is self-attaching. Just make sure to use something to keep the vine and the tree bark rubbing when you initialy install it. The rootlet formation is stimulated by the friction of the vine against the tree bark. Your attachment device (e.g., twine, staples, Wayward Vine supports, glue) can be removed in a year or 2.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 11:50AM
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Hi Julia--

Thanks for the reply! I looked up decumara barbara...and the two sites I saw pictures of it seem to say that it actually IS climbing, are they both non-natives?

Do you know any more about this? And, when you said "we do have a similar vine that is native to your area..." you have a nursery with this vine? I'd love to see your pics or links...THANK YOU!

Kind Regards--

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 2:43PM
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You have run into the confusion that often surrounds common names vs. botanical names. There are three genus that are, or are like, climbing hydrangea - Hydrangea anomala petioaris, Schizophrogma hydrangeoides, and Decumaria barbara. All of these are commonly called Climbing hydrangeas and all need inspection to determine which is which. Only Decumaria barbara is a native (watch out for the only other vine in its genus, Decumaria sinensis, which is from China). Their slight differences make one or the other the preferred choice for a particular site. Decumaria is a native (you listed this as a criteria) and a nectar source for Swallowtail butterflies (your interest). It is the best for woodland settings. It is the fastest to establish. It grows and roots on the ground as a groundcover as well as being a self-attaching climbing. Plus, the fragrance is to die for. It does not generally like full sun; none of the so-called climbing hydrangeas do especially in the southern part of their range. Decumaria is also the hardest to find at your local nurseries.

Here are some possible internet sources that list the native Decumaria in inventory: Woodlanders in Aiken SC, Brushwood Nursery listed in the Garden Bazaar, and Mail Order Natives in Lee FL. These are all companies I have purchased from recently and can personally recommend. There are lots of other sources on the internet and you may get a larger plant if you have a local nursery that specializes in rare natives or will order for you. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 6:01PM
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