Annual climbers

by James Alexander-Sinclair

...As the name [morning glory] suggests, they have mostly faded away by lunchtime although, at this time of year, they last much longer.

Yellow centre of a blue ipomoea flowerEarlier this year my wisteria died: a tragic episode about which I wrote here (and here, actually, as well). 

The most obvious upshot of this was the fact that we were then left with a big expanse of naked wall that needed covering, smartish. Rather than plant a rose or another wisteria - there might be some unpleasantness hiding in the soil - I decided to stick with annual climbers. We usually have morning glories (Ipomoea species) in pots, so I moved one of them to fill in and it did an admirable job with crowds of flowers to greet us each morning. As the name suggests, the flowers usually fade away by lunchtime although, at this time of year, they last much longer. 

I also planted one directly in the ground against another wall just to see how it fared. The results were interesting. The pot-grown varieties (on an east-facing wall) flowered much earlier but, even though we fed them, ran out of steam quite quickly. They still flowered but the foliage now looks yellow and exhausted. The one in the ground (on a south-facing wall) didn't even think about flowering until late July, but the foliage still looks lush and green as we edge into autumn. 

There may be a moral behind this story, but I'm dashed if I know what it is. It all depends whether you want early or late flowers, I suppose. Bees don't care either way and just want to get stuck in

The other annual climber of which I am very fond is Cobea scandens. My wife and I have a competition each year to see who can grow the best specimen. This year hers is virtually hugging the roof of the house and has had about twenty flowers. Mine looks like a bedraggled hobo emerging from a rough night in a hedge and has had one flower. 

I did, however, plant another one in my mother-in-law's greenhouse and that has grown so much that you can no longer close the vents. So I sort of win.

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Gardeners' World Web User 13/10/2009 at 09:01

I also planted Morning Glory ( heavenly blue) on an east facing wall in june and have had an array of flowers each morning, which died off by early afternoon. But i now have also got the same problem of tatty, naked foliage, yellow, withering leaves, but grateful that my flowers are lasting until teatime. I may try planting one in a different position in spring.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/10/2009 at 21:49

you'll regeret it next summer! I have spent all spring and summer pulling out morning glory seedlings from the beds after last years diaplay. They are truly prolific self seeders. Cobaea being more tender, much less so.

Gardeners' World Web User 14/10/2009 at 14:22

To get the best of both worlds, why not sow some earlies and some lates. Then you can pull out the early tatty ones and still have lush late plants.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/10/2009 at 17:33

When we lived in the eastern US, this was a standard that we sorely miss now that we are living in the Arizona desert. Vining morning glories are prohibited in Arizona. There are only a few bush-types allowed, but they are not as dramatic. Thanks for the post.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/10/2009 at 22:37

I was stunned to find last year's morning glory "Grandpa Otts" had self-seeded this year...the best one of all popped up a month ago in a deep, rich bit of compost around a new passion flower I'd planted, in a south facing position but lightly shaded by a picket fence. I've never seen one so happy. Some of the leaves are as big as two of my hands, and it's just about to flower. Anyone else have this experience of self seeding? I usually do a cleanup but had left a lot of the seed heads in place last year.

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