Growing Russian vine

by James Alexander-Sinclair

Many years ago when I was a landscaper in London, I had a regular client who had a tiny garden in Wandsworth.

Russian vineMany years ago when I was a landscaper in London, I had a regular client who had a tiny garden in Wandsworth. It was literally one flower bed, a small shed and a wall topped by a chain link fence.

The reason we had to keep returning was because, at one point in the evolution of man, some bright spark a couple of doors down had planted a Russian vine (aka mile-a-minute vine, Chinese fleecevine, Polygonum baldschuanicum or, latterly, Fallopia baldschuanica). This had grown all the way along the chain link fence to colonise at least eight neighbouring gardens. It was now so thick that I could comfortably walk along the top of the fence like a tightrope walker.

We could have cut the whole thing down, but there was a further problem. The growth, though excessive, served to block out the view of the neighbouring warehouses and sundry tumbledown sheds, so it was decided that the best solution was to visit twice a year, armed with sharp secateurs and a lot of bin bags.

Behold the dilemma presented by this plant: on the surface it is an excellent idea - fast growing, popular with bees, long flowering (it will happily perform for months) and reliably tough in all situations. However, it is also as untameable as a coach load of Visigoths on the razzle. In short, beware: plant it only when you have enough elbow room for it to do its stuff but, if you do have a large and distant eyesore to conceal, then you cannot do much better.

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Gardeners' World Web User 22/11/2011 at 08:43

I am led to believe, by my botanist father, that Polygonum baldshuanica was one of the first Latin names I ever mastered, at the age of 5. It used to smother the side of our South Norwood house.

Gardeners' World Web User 22/11/2011 at 09:03

I can well believe this, Richard, as the first word all my children learned to read was "elephant". Children seem to revel in big words. The only time I was ever left behind in class was when we visited the Edinburgh Botanic Garden in primary school. I could not resist trying to pronounce the names of the plants from labels. Does Russian vine smother bindweed, James?

Gardeners' World Web User 22/11/2011 at 10:38

A monster of a climber it seems - I'm looking for something to grow up the back of my house but have very limited soil around the edges due to paths etc, it's north facing and rather dull - would this do the trick Richard? Does anyone have any suggestions? Self clinging would be ideal really but I can put supports up if it comes to it.....any suggestions would be most welcome.....

Gardeners' World Web User 22/11/2011 at 17:04

I to had a Russian vine growing a large pot at the side of my house,When I built my extension I moved it down the garden and lent against the shed but left it sitting on the ground where it took root, That's why my shed is falling to bits it grew all over it,And in side cutting it all out made the shed very unstable.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:44

I had a Russian Vine and I grew it in a large pot. It did survive quite happily for several years and it still grew as quickly as if it was planted in the ground. After several years though it seemed to give up a bit and just didn't grow as well, but I was new to gardening then so I don't think I gave it the love and attention it deserved. After reading about yours James I'm tempted to grow it again and I know the bees would be pleased.

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