Monday, December 3, 2012

Landscaping Made Easy, Part 11: Corkscrew vine

In nerd-speak, most of us in Centerpointe have a "large fence surface area to backyard volume ratio".  How does the volume of a rectangle vary as a function of its perimeter?  I'll leave that to your Googling pleasure, but suffice it to say that, the smaller your yard, the more visually imposing your fence appears in relation to it.  It's not a small effect - it's pronounced.  And not appealing. 

When I was first designing my backyard landscaping, I took some printed photos of the bare space to a number of Master Gardeners and their associates for their opinions.  One of them actually started cussing out loud when he saw just how small my yard was.  "&%$#, that's just awful - you better be sure to include a few patches of climbing vines along that fence to interrupt the visual continuity, because it looks like a prison courtyard," he said. 

OK - I just love unabridged opinions like that!!  And I'm glad he put it so starkly because it's a landscaping element that I might not have otherwise included.

I have tried a couple of vines over the years but not with a lot of success.  My personal favorite is trumpet vine slash cross vine (I can't tell the vernacular difference between the two, but here are some stunning pics of "cross vine" by Austinite Pam Penick). However, these don't seem to always grow very well or very fast in our Clear Lake soils.  Jasmine is also wonderful, but it has never grown well for me.  It either dies or just sits there and does nothing. 

I decided to give corkscrew vine a chance, because I love the unusual purple flowers.
It flowers without any encouragement or care. 
I will warn you straight up that there are some bad reviews of corkscrew vine on the internet.  People complain that it attracts flies and ants.  Ours has been growing for about 2.5 years now, and I haven't seen these problems.  Corkscrew vines definitely attract Carolina anoles, which have voracious appetites for insects.
These little buggers.  They are everywhere in greater Houston.  If corkscrew vines are prone to insect infestations, these have kept this problem from manifesting in ours, because they love living within the leaves.
The other common complaint about corkscrew vine is that it quickly gets out of control.  There is substantial confusion on the internet as to whether this is actually a "corkscrew vine" or a "snail vine", which apparently has the same Latin name.  Snail is allegedly invasive whereas corkscrew is not, but I couldn't get any clarity on that. 
Don't plant them if you're not prepared to do some maintenance - they probably grow at inch-per-day rates - just incredibly fast. 

Don't plant them unless your neighbor agrees, because they will quickly cover both sides of the fence.  We planted ours in the side yard between houses because several rooms look out onto this fence which was just five feet away - an oppressive view.  At least having a vine there gives something interesting to look at with flowers and whatnot, and with only a five-foot width, there's really no room for any other type of plant. 
Yes they take maintenance, but I myself haven't found it to be a big burden.  They are not a tough or spiny vine so a pair of hand clippers usually gets the job done quickly. 

If you want to make yourself miserable with vine control, plant a wisteria instead.  I made that mistake at my house in north Clear Lake, and I used to get nasty notes from the neighbors (it was a corner lot, so the fence flanked the sidewalk).  Wisteria is very pretty but it grew far too aggressively and if you accidentally brushed up against it, the spines could draw blood. 

Corkscrew vine won't survive a heavy frost, but will typically come back from the roots if killed (and this also speaks to invasive potential - if they can't survive frost, invasive potential is limited).  This has happened to us one time since we moved into Centerpointe about three years ago.  Then I had an hour or two of work to tear the entire dead vine off both sides of the fence and dispose of it (in the compost, of course), but it grew back immediately.  

Here's another potential advantage of corkscrew vine: They are good for noise attenuation.  If your neighbor has an a/c compressor and/or a swimming pool pump just on the other side of your shared fence, planting a vine like this can help to dull the sound of it.  It forms such a thick blanket on BOTH sides of the fence that it has an insulating effect. 

I bought our corkscrew vine for seven bucks at Houston Garden Center during their annual 70% off sale.  Can't beat it.

And with that, I wish you a happy Monday. 
One final pic of those flowers, because they are really wonderful. 

1 comment:

  1. This plant really needs a high maintenance or else you will attract some insects that will ruin your garden.

    castlerock landscape


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