Q: I am a newbie gardener who has become obsessed with flowering vines. Who can resist? Today's question is about my search for a super hardy, fast-growing flowering vine suitable...
Q: I am a newbie gardener who has become obsessed with flowering vines. Who can resist? Today’s question is about my search for a super hardy, fast-growing flowering vine suitable for difficult conditions such as ugly rock walls that are hot and sometimes dry. I live in Issaquah. I have been investigating trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), hoping to find a true red, but found some virulent opinion on national garden message boards apparently trumpet vine is terribly invasive in some parts of the country. Is there a wild Campsis radicans that is invasive? Is there a trumpet vine that one might safely buy at a nursery here?
A: While trumpet vines grow quickly and spread by suckering, our climate discourages them from being invasive. They die back to the ground in winter freezes. Any flowering vine aficionado will appreciate their large, flaring, red-orange flowers shown off by handsome leaves that resemble wisteria foliage. If you want a less vigorous vine, look for Campsis grandiflora, the Chinese trumpet creeper, which has even larger and redder flowers, but grows more slowly and is a little more tender than the native C. radicans.
Those national garden message boards, and even gardening books that lack a regional focus, can be confusing because invasiveness depends on climate. The worst weed in one area of the country can be a hard-to-grow treasure in a different climate zone. On any plant you’re considering, it always pays to check out local sources of information such as the Miller Horticultural Library’s Web page (www.millerlibrary.org) and books such as “Sunset Gardening In the Northwest,” which are specific to our unique climate.
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Q: Can I grow canna lilies outside in my garden? They look like they should grow in Hawaii, not Seattle.
A: If you have sun and moist soil, you can grow these exotic-looking yet hardy perennials outdoors. You can even set their pots right into a pond, where their paddle-shaped leaves look natural emerging from the water. Cannas turn black at the first frost, when you should cut down the foliage and protect them during the winter with mulch. Don’t expect them to rebound quickly in our cold springs, but by late May the leaves emerge from the ground and grow quickly into statuesque, showy plants with vivid flowers ranging from yellow through orange to scarlet. Deadhead as the flowers wither, and your cannas will reward you by blooming until frost. Especially showy are Canna glauca with blue-green leaves and nectarine colored blooms and Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ with intensely orange flowers set off by yellow-striped leaves.
Valerie Easton also writes about Plant Life in Sunday’s Pacific Northwest Magazine. Call 206-464-8470 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions. Sorry, no personal replies.