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Mary Lou Marchand/Master Gardener: Annual vines bring garden variety

BEMDIJI — Annual vines are versatile and colorful additions to any flower garden.

They will climb a trellis, fence or wall or hang over that wall. They can be used as ground covers or in containers.

The vines are easy to start from seed either indoors in spring or directly in the soil after it has warmed. They might need to be pointed in the right direction when they are young, but they really require little attention. What’s not to like about a plant that requires no pruning or deadheading?

The largest group of annual vines — Ipomoea — includes morning glory, moonflower, cardinal climber, cypress vine and sweet potato vine. Morning glory, a favorite among gardeners, is a fast growing vine that is easy to start from seed. It does take a long time to bloom and should be started early indoors. The blooms, in shades of blue, pink, purple, and white are open only in the morning. ‘Heavenly Blue’ is especially appealing.

Also in the Ipomoea genus is the moonflower vine. The huge, 6-8 inch white flowers open at night and are fragrant. This night-bloomer grows to about 6 feet and is especially nice grown close to the house so the fragrance can be enjoyed in the evening. This vine is sometimes confused with datura, also called moonflower, but datura is not a vine although the flowers are similar.

Cypress vine and cardinal climber are similar members of the Ipomoea genus. The red, pink or white blooms are similar in size and both have feathery foliage although cypress vine foliage is more finely cut than cardinal climber. Start these early since they can take as long as four months to bloom.

Another vining favorite is the colorful nasturtium with its tones of red, orange, yellow, and apricot. In addition to climbing, nasturtiums can be bushy or trailing. They prefer full sun and produce the largest number of flowers when grown in poorer soil. Grow them in pots or in the border.

Canary vine, a relative of the nasturtium, with bright yellow flowers grows in full sun or part shade. It prefers moist soil and will grow 8 to 10 feet. Like the nasturtium, anary vine flowers are edible. Although the blooms on this plant look like little yellow birds, it gets its name from the Canary Islands where it was found.

A trellis of purple hyacinth bean makes a big impact. The Latin name is Lablab purpurea or Dolichos lablab. This big vine has dense purple-tinged foliage, rose-purple pea-like flowers (sometimes white or pink) followed by glossy reddish-purple seedpods. Hyacinth bean pods and seeds are not really edible. A sturdy support system is necessary due to the weight of the vine at maturity. It will bloom all summer in a sunny spot.

Scarlet runner bean with its showy red-orange flowers is a hummingbird magnet. When trellised, this fast growing vine will provide a quick, upright accent in the flower border or provide shade along a deck. Additional cultivars have white (‘Butler’), pink (‘Sunset’) or red and white flowers (‘Painted Lady’). The young pods are edible when cooked. Seeds can be saved from year to year.

An old-fashioned cottage garden vine, the sweet pea, has clusters of flowers in a wide variety of colors. Most of the newer varieties lack the intense fragrance of the old-fashioned ones. Sweet peas can be planted early in the spring and will begin blooming in early summer although they will flag when it gets hot. Afternoon shade helps to keep them blooming. There are dwarf varieties for containers.

Annual vines will add height or cover a bare spot in your garden until your other plantings mature. Whether trailing over a pot, rambling on the ground or climbing a trellis, vines are a great addition to the flower garden.

Check with the University of Minnesota Extension website> for more information on horticultural topics. In addition, local Master Gardeners will again be answering your questions on home horticulture. Call (218) 444-7916, leave your name, number, and question and you will get a call.