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In the garden: Victory for the Cardinal Climbers!

I'm happy about this because, ya know, plant seeds in the ground, even in late July, and look what you get!

In terms of next year, though, making the usual assumptions, I've got more thoughts now on that pollinator wall. Here's sketch:

(Sorry for my handwriting, I need to figure out how to write or print with my finger, if that's even possible.)

You see the basic concept: T-bars shoved in the earth, black netting between them, plant some nice annuals along the bottom, but also twining plants, and let the twining plants -- morning glories, or climbers, or whatever -- climb up the netting, building the wall. But some questions:

1) If I wished to attract butterflies, would this idea be enough? How about the shady side at caterpillars? Is that possible? Is it a multiseason thing?

2) Is there the equivalent of a wildflower mix for climbers? It would be nice to have a cycle of flowers throughout the season.

3) Annuals are, I think, a requirement. Honeysuckle and so forth are hard to rip out, and I want to be able to do that if this is a bad idea.

Again, stacking functions:

  • Attract pollinators
  • Windbreak against blight
  • Sheer beauty

and I thought of a fourth one:

  • Additional privacy.

The raspberries shield me from the public sidewalk. This would shield me from people walking on my driveway into the house.

So, all in all, this sounds like a neat idea. Thoughts?

NOTE I could use bamboo instead of T-bar.

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nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

What a cheerful illustration! Looks like you could have a second career if you so chose.

The only vining larval food source for caterpillars that I can think of is a passion vine; a great plant but terribly invasive. I think, unless you can think of any others, you may have to restrict your vines to nectar sources for adults. butterflies will nectar at just about anything, but both caterpillars and butterflies seem to prefer feeding on wildflowers with umbels and landing pads. For example, you can get a lot of mileage out of things like fennel which can grow fairly tall, are food for caterpillars and have umbels that are frequented by adult butterflies. They also freely reseed, which is nice, and can be pulled wherever you don't want them.

So, I guess, it might be an idea not to devote too much of your limited real estate to the experiment unless you can find more vines which can do the same thing as the wildflowers you are already planting. I imagine that Maine has a website devoted to the culture of butterflies, and they would have a list of such things better suited to your area.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

I just did a quick Google, and there is such a thing as "the Maine butterfly survey" that looks like it might have some good info, or be a good jumping off point for finding out the kinds of information you would need to fill in the holes in next years' planting schedule.

It looks like a fun project!

Submitted by lambert on

I have bee balm, raspberries, honeysuckle. Like the church ladies say, "We don't sell anything that's not invasive." And what's terribly invasive in the South is probably a lot less invasive in Zone 5. And apparently I can grow it up here:

Passionflower isn't fussy. Provide light soil that drains well (pH 6.1 to 7.5.) and keep the plant moist. Passionflower likes sun but will tolerate partial shade. It's accustomed to poor soil, so give it a deep hole filled with sand and other soil lighteners, but don't pamper it too much. Consistent watering is a good idea, but this isn't a persnickety plant. Although there are over 400 varieties of passion flower, many, like Passiflora incarnate, are vines that grow to 30 feet. Passionflower is considered a warm weather Southern belle, but it can take winter temperatures into Zone-5 as long as you give it a protective layer of mulch before you put the lawn furniture in the garage for the season.

And you can eat the fruit:

If you grow passionflower, you must taste the fruits. The fruits of the maypop ripen from yellowish to light brown in color. The slimy aril covering the seeds is very sweet and fruity when ripe. The hard seeds can be separated from the pulp through a sieve or apple sauce strainer. Or if you are in the garden, you can pop open the ripe fruit and suck the delicious pulp from the fruit. Make sure that the fruit is not over-ripe. Perfectly ripe fruits are delicious -- over-ripe fruits ferment into a foul paste.

If only it scared deer....

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

There are a lot of cool things about passionflower, I freely admit it and propagate it myself, however it is good to know that it requires a LOT of space and can send rhizomes out twenty feet to come up somewhere else. Maintaining it is a lot like cutting the heads off of a hydra. It is probably best used on a large trellis against a sunny house wall.....

Right now, both at my home and at the Garden, I have areas of the stuff that cover trees, shrubs and daylilies in patches of over a hundred square feet in a mat. The only reason I can tolerate it is because the caterpillars will decimate the vines fairly quickly and I will do just about anything to increase our supply of butterflies. "Fairly quickly" also being a relative term; it may spread like kudzu before the Gulf Fritillaries discover it and start laying their eggs.

I just don't want anyone saying that they were not warned.

That said, we have plenty of maypops just ripe for the picking. If you would like some I would be happy to mail them up and then you will have some seed for next year.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

So, I was looking in my books for caterpillar alternatives to passion vine and came across a nasturtium vine. We cannot grow nasturtiums well here, but they apparently do very well up North, and there is a vining form! That might be a good compromise.

Also, while they are not food for caterpillars, moon vine is pretty cool and sweetpeas are a classic. Those would work well so close to your sidewalk.

Submitted by lambert on

... though I appreciate the seeds offer (and who's doing the propagation? Us, or the plants?!?)

I already have raspberries invading my vegetable areas from the West, so perhaps I don't need 15-foot (!!) passionflower rhizomes invading them from the North (even if I cut down the estimate by half since Maine really isn't a tropical climate).

I'm happy to be reminded of sweetpeas; I've always loved them. I wondered if they were "Grandmother's Garden"-style plants, and I do come up with several reminiscences about actual grandmothers and their sweet peas. And I think I have a dim memory myself.

And It looks like I want climbers for the nasturiums; I have some arleady in the front, and they seem happy, but they're bushy, if that.

Now that I think of it, annuals, as stated, really is a requirement for this wall, because I want to be able to rip it all out and move it, and it sounds like great mats of passionflowers aren't the best way forward there, especially if they're hard to get rid of.