Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Climbing Asparagus

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For the ultimate in ferny foliage, try Climbing Asparagus.  Yes, it really is asparagus, and yes, it really does climb.  The canes aren't much more than an eighth-inch thick, though, so would be only a doll-house feast.

 

But the real joy is the mass of thread-thin foliage on canes that soar each Spring to ten, twelve, even fifteen feet.

 

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My clump is very happy on one of the poles of my Red Garden pergolas.  What with the dark-flowered annuals and tropicals they celebrate (as well as require), Red Gardens are always prone to being too dense, too smoldering, too in-your-face.  To lighten it all up, the definitive ferniness of Climbing Asparagus.  It's is the strongest degree of delicacy, so to speak, your garden can grow.

 

 

Here's how to grow this feathery vine:

 

Latin Name

Asparagus verticillatus

Common Name

Climbing Asparagus

Family

Asparagaceae, the Asparagus family.

What kind of plant is it?

Hardy, herbaceous, perennial vine.

Hardiness

Zones 4 - 10.

Habit

Clumping, semi-twining, strongly upright.

Rate of Growth

Fast after established.

Size in ten years

A clump about eighteen inches wide at the base, sending up a column of foliage three feet or more wide and fifteen feet tall.

Texture

Ferny, but so profusely-foliaged that it's not see-through.

Grown for

the delicate, thread-like foliage exactly like that of edible asparagus, but on the narrowest of stalks that each Spring soar (if supported) in a loose vertical mass.

 

the sheer oddity and surprise of the plant.

 

the tiny white flowers, somewhat fragrant, that mature to showy red berries.

Flowering season

late Spring / early Summer:  Mid-June here in Rhode Island

Culture

Easy!  Full sun, rich soil, plenty of water.

How to handle it

As with edible asparagus, this is a long-lived clumping plant.  Plant it where you'd like it to thrive for the very long term.  Slow to "clump up," a trait it also shares with edible asparagus, which doesn't send up enough canes to permit harvesting until the third year after planting.

 

Each Spring new canes arise from below-ground; they are a striking but ephemeral deep purple.  Despite twining around each other with joy, the clump overall needs support if it isn't to flop over.  It's best to tie thin twine around the whole clump, gently and every two or three feet, but the canes grow so fast and Spring is such a busy time already that I usually forget, and then must tie in a leaning ten-foot mass that, seemingly, was only a foot tall the week before. 

 

The canes stiffen up as they gain height, although the tips remain a bit fragile (again, just like edible asparagus).  So while you can be as cavalier as you like when strapping in the body of the column of foliage, you'll want to be careful not to bend or even snap off cane tips that will soon be far above.

 

The canes die to the ground each Fall.  Be sure to cut the entire clump off at ground level during the cold months.  Otherwise, you'll be clipping out individual canes the following Spring while also trying to avoid the fragile tips of that season's new crop.  I speak from tedious experience here.

Downsides

the "climbing" asparagus name is a bit of a misnomer: The clump needs support most of the way up.  In my experience, it doesn't self-seed or run, so this is a well-behaved oddity.

Variants

Asparagus fern, Asparagus sprengeri, is planted by the millions in landscapes throughout the subtropics and tropics, as well as in containers for houseplants, although it is scorned as a weed in its native South Africa.  The really ferny asparagus fern, Asparagus plumosus, is grown by the cubic mile as filler for flower arrangements.  It, too, is tender.  

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

Division and by seed.

Native habitat

Central and Eastern Asia

 
 
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