GateHouse News ServiceSometimes in the summer, you want colorful flowers climbing a trellis or the side of a porch. Annual vines may be just the answer.
Since they are usually from warmer climates, vines grow quickly throughout our summer and bloom the entire season.
Here are three annual vines that are easy to grow and available in most garden centers. Even big-box stores might carry them –– if not as plants, surely in a seed packet.
For a long time, I thought the morning glory was a nuisance. Not anymore. These twining vines with funnel-shaped flowers that close late in the day add a feast of white, rose and blue color to any garden.
While on a Saturday-morning round of yard sales one fall, I saw morning glories covering a garage wall and a porch railing at a seller’s home. The owner identified the beautiful blue flower as President Tyler (Ipomoea purpurea). She even offered me some seeds.
Tyler, according to Johnny’s Seeds in Maine, is an heirloom seed. It blooms with its 2- to 3-inch flowers weeks earlier than other varieties with similar blooms. That makes it ideal for climates with a shorter season. Plant it in full sun and average soil. It can climb 7 to 8 feet.
Mina lobata is one of my favorite annual vines. I planted it out front at the lamppost, which was soon covered in red and yellow flowers that lasted into the fall.
The Mina lobata first arrived in the United States in 1887.
The Dreer Seed Co. catalog of 1890 listed it as a novelty plant: “Half-hardy Mexican climbing annual. The buds are, at first of a vivid red, but turn to orange yellow immediately before they open, and when fully expanded, the flowers are of a creamy white shade.”
The growth of the Mina lobata closely resembles the morning glory, so it needs room to climb on a trellis or a fence. As the flower bud matures, its bright red and yellow begin to fade to a lighter hue. The Mina lobata does well in full sun or partial shade and survives best in a well-drained, moderately moist soil.
The third vine, Black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata), features five-lobed flowers, which can be yellow, orange or white. The vines reach 5 to 10 feet. The richer the soil, the higher the plant will climb.
Remember to have some structure that these vines can climb, like a trellis or a fence. You may need to help them get started by attaching the stem to the trellis.
Sometimes farmers markets feature these annual vines during the summer.Thomas Mickey is a master gardener from Quincy, Mass., and professor emeritus at Bridgewater State University. You may reach him at www.americangardening.net.