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Gardeners Grow Together Week 17, April, 2021: Annual Climbers

Welcome to my special gardening page for those of you who like to garden yourselves! Each week, I will make suggestions as to what gardening tasks we need to do every week during the growing season. It will help keep you on track--as well as myself!

To keep things simple, I am using the year's weekly number, Week #1 through #52 (example: the week of January 1 is Week #1), instead of specific dates.

So, come on! Let's get our hands dirty!


Week 17:

It's Time to Start Annual Climbers

Do you have a tiny garden space? Or, do you have an unsightly fence or wall? Or, is your garden flat and boring? Why not add height, interest and abundant color with fast growing annual climbers?

Annual climbers are great for adding quick drama color and height to any space, even a patio or balcony! Most grow from seed to flower in about a month, and boom profusely all season until frost. Most require full sun to perform at their best, but some will tolerate partial shade, or at least keep climbing until they find some sun.

Some can be direct sown in the garden right now, but most are very tender and need to be started inside now for earliest flowering; however, all can be started outside after all danger of frost is passed. You will just have to wait longer for flowers.

Here are some of my favorites:

Morning Glory

Sweet Peas

Cup and Saucer Vine

Hyacinth Bean

Morning Glory

These beauties are very fast growing and get huge! They flower very quickly and are covered in gorgeous 3-4" brilliant blue flowers. They also come in violet, burgundy and rose colors, but I find that the blues are the most floriferous. There is also a night blooming variety called Moon Flower that has huge pure white flowers that open only at night. It is beautiful and adds drama to your garden in the moonlight. It also a great food source for night flying moths and other nocturnal pollinators.

Each flower lasts only one day, but there are always many more waiting in the wings to bloom the next day. Because of the short blooming time of the individual flower, they don't make good cut flowers, but in the garden, they are exceptional.

The seeds can be planted now, or even in the fall, as the seeds don't mind the cold. They will sprout when the time is right. In fact, make sure you plant them in a place that you really want them, because they will reseed readily year after year and may become a nuisance. The unwanted seedlings can be easily pulled or hoed to control them; but, I like to keep them away from my flower beds for that reason. I like to find a place where they can grow and reseed to their hearts' content. They aren't particular about soil, but the better your soil, the the better they bloom. They will climb up anything and can grow up to twenty feet tall!

Sweet Pea

Ahhh, the Sweet Pea, probably the most romantic and nostalgic garden flower of all. Their curling tendrils, delicate ruffled blossoms and unforgettable scent, seems to bring back lovely childhood memories of Grandma's garden. These flowers have been garden favorites for many generations.

If you haven't already started your sweet peas inside, you can start them outside now, but you need to do it quickly. Sweet Peas hate the heat and want to grow in the coolness of early spring. If you can start them inside in late winter, you will get the longest blooming time, but if you sow the seeds outside, now, you should get a good crop before the really hot weather comes. Here in Colorado, it always seems like we go from winter right into summer with no real spring. For that reason, I always plant my Sweet Peas on an east facing wall or fence, so they can have a break from the hot afternoon sun. Or you can plant them on some kind of support somewhere where they will be shaded by a tree, tall hedge or building in the afternoon. They do need at least four hours of sun each day to bloom, however.

Sweet Peas make wonderful cut flowers, and the more you cut them the more they bloom! The best part is that they come in a myriad of beautiful colors. Keep cutting on a regular basis and remove the spent flowers every few days to prevent the plants from going seed. If they set seed, they will quit flowering. DO NOT be tempted to serve the delicate seed pods to your family for dinner. They are poisonous! Keep them away from livestock as well.

The only down side to growing Sweet Peas, is that they are short lived and won't last much past June in places where the summers are hot; but, oh, they are so worth it! Just have something to replace them, once they are finished. If you live in an area that has has a long autumn season, plant them again in late August for a fall crop. They need something thin to wrap their delicate tendrils around, so use a teepee trellis wrapped in wire or string, or wire fencing, or some kind of netting for them to grow on.

Sweet Peas are wonderful for kids to grow, too! They grow so quickly and children seem to love watching the tiny tendrils cling to things as they grow. And they love to make their own little bouquets to give to mom or take to grandma. The best part is that can pick all they want and no one gets mad!

Cup and Saucer Vine

Also known as Cathedral Bells, this is another vine that is great for cut flowers. It has lovely bell shaped flowers that sit on a wide bed of calyx that makes it look like a cup and saucer. This flower comes mostly in blues, white or a combination of the two. The flowers grow on long stems and are a great cut flower; however, the opening buds have a slightly unpleasant odor, but the open flowers have a nice honey smell.

This plant is a perennial vine in frost free areas, but is an annual everywhere else, so start indoors for early bloom, or outdoors after danger of frost has past. The seeds are fairly large, flat and tough.

Soaking the seeds overnight helps to soften them and aid in germination, which can be a bit uneven. They seem to germinate better for me if I plant the seeds if on edge, rather than flat. They readily self seed out side, so watch where you planted the year before for tiny seedlings that you can transplant or share with friends!

Cup and Saucer vine can take a while to bloom, so be patient. The plant, however is a very vigorous grower and will quickly take over an area, so make sure to give it lots of room so it doesn't overwhelm other plants. It can quickly grow to 30 ft or more! It can be controlled by trimming it back to whatever height you like and it will branch out and flower more quickly. Expect flowers in late July or early August until frost.

Hyacinth Bean

The Hyacinth Bean is one of my all time favorites. It has beautiful flowers; gorgeous, shiny, dark purple seed pods; and, the leaves, flowers and seed pods are edible!

The plant grows very quickly, with dark green leaves, tinged with purple. The flowers are a soft lavender color, which really pop out against the dark foliage. But my favorite part of the plant are its unusual purple seed pods that are beautiful in bouquets.

Like I said before, all parts of this plant are edible, as well; however, I don't recommend eating the mature beans, as they are slightly toxic if not prepared properly. But do save them for next year's plants, as the seeds can be hard to find or expensive.

This is a very short list of many, many annual vines available out there, so experiment! Make a bunch of tall teepees out of tree branches or sturdy bamboo canes and have some fun!

Now, let's get busy!

If you have any questions, put them in the comments below!

~Lee Ann~

Valmont Valley Farm

Where Beautiful Magic is Always in Bloom

If you would like to join in supporting my flower farm and receive beautiful bouquets weekly, please sign up for my Flower CSA! Get all the details here!


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