Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Planting Pickets

White picket fences.  Quaint, quintessential Americana.  Perhaps for this reason, my heart lodged on the concept of having one wrap around our yard.  So, Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome constructed one for me (don’t worry, folks, I’m married to him).  Little did I know, that white picket fences are for the birds.  Literally.  What I thought we were building was a stylish boundary for my dog and a structure for vining plants.  What we actually built was a roost for cardinals, chickadees and mourning doves.  They made themselves right at home, and a comfortable bird poops.  A lot.  And so my lovely fence is perpetually in need of paint.  White fences that are longer than 100’ require a full-time painting crew.  By the time you’ve worked your magic on one end, the bird world has defaced the other.  It’s certain the pickets would look better if I removed the bird feeder, but believe it or not, we'd miss those little poopers.

Inspired by Tom Sawyer, I included "Paint the Fence" in a challenge I issue to the kids each summer.  There are yummy AND fun prizes, so I figured it would be a win/win situation for everyone involved.  The few attempts that were made resulted in several spottily painted pickets and extra brushes for me to clean (#46723 on my list of fun things to do).  Mark Twain made this seem so much simpler.

One solution for a splotchy fence is to apply some horticultural camouflage to it.  Some girls have a shoe fetish.  I have a vine fetish, and it comes in handy with my bird doo-doo dilemma.  Their twiny, tropical nature transfixes my mind.  At Sunrise Nursery this spring, I fought the urge to clear out the inventory in their vine aisle.  Currently, our fence is enveloped in Sweet Autumn Clematis, Pink Lemonade Honeysuckle, an unidentified Climbing Rose and Green beans.  But I’ve got plans for expansion.  Here’s a few on my wish list:

Akebia foliage
Five-Leaf Akebia (Akebia quinata) is a home-run vine.  I love the lacy visual texture of the compound leaves but the piece de resistance are the burgundy-lilac flowers, which hang in clusters with dramatically reflexed petals, emitting a fragrance of…..Hersheys.  Mmmm.  Chocolate flowers?  Don’t mind if I do.  As if that wasn’t enough to sell this climber, the seed pods contain a sweet, edible pulp that tastes like tapioca pudding.  I have yet to sample the pulp personally, but I am a fan of tapioca.  I made an entire batch disappear in the process of writing last week’s column.  So yes, I will have an Akebia.  It’s just a matter of time.  

Arctic Beauty Kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta) is the perfect compliment to my lackadaisical painting.  The leaves are tipped in white and pink, giving the impression they’ve been dipped in a bucket of paint.  So if I do paint, no one will notice if I get some on the leaves.  And if I procrastinate painting, it will look as if I at least tried recently, since the leaves are freshly decorated.  But this plant has more to offer than colorful foliage.  Dr. Skirvin, one of my favorite Illini professors, introduced me to the fruit of the Hardy Kiwi vine.  No peeling fuzzy skin off of these: just pop ‘em in your mouth.  Delicious!  The plants do require a male and female plant to produce fruit, so I’ll be sure to get both when the requisite garden space opens up. 

Clematis beauty
I feel a bit sheepish about putting Clematis on my list.  What self-respecting Illinois horticulturist does not already have Clematis in their garden?  This one.  I'm not talking about the Sweet autumn Clematis which is already rambling prolifically here, but the ever popular, large-flowering type.  The big dilemma is which variety to plant first.  Jackmanii is overused, but seeing it in bloom melts away all my objections.  Who cares if every Tom, Dick and Harry has one?  I want one too!  Those luscious blooms transplant my mind to a distant tropical island (complete with a fruity drink and the aforementioned fence-builder).  Whatever hybrid I choose, I plan on interplanting it with another species of vine.  Clematis are slow starters: with the exception of Sweet Autumn, they need several years to develop a 'presence'.  Additionally, they're a one season performer and they like their roots shaded and their blooms in the sun.  Interplanting would answer all of those issues very nicely. 

These are just the top three of my vine wish list.  Climbing Hydrangea, Passionflower, Dutchman’s Pipe Vine, Trumpet Creeper and Wisteria are all in my gardening future.  Hopefully, Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome is taking notes for his 2013 Mother's Day shopping list.  


Casa Mariposa said...

I have clematis, honeysuckle ( in a pot!), trumpet creeper, which is like inviting Ghengis Kahn to dinner, Dutchmans; Pipe, and a Carolina jessamine but it's still a baby. Check out my blog. I have a new section called Garden Love.

White Fence said...

Cleaning is generally an easy thing to do when it comes to, aluminum fences as well as vinyl fences. Vinyl fences can generally be pressure-washed with no need for special chemicals.

White Fence

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