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

Giant Pepper Vine

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Smooth, shiny mahogany stems, punctuated by leaf buds the shape of bishops' miters:  Giant pepper vine is one of the subtle glories of any Winter garden.

 

The buds are the size of your little finger-nail, and when the weather warms, they sprout into the largest, most beautiful foliage of any hardy vine.  (I'll revisit this vine in June, I promise.) 

 

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The Winter display has several elements to encourage.  See the picture below: First-year stems and their leaf-buds are pure and shiny mahogany; the mahogany of stems that are a year old display bark begins to be overlaid with long lines of tan diamonds.  The vine climbs by lengthy branching tendrils, which can be well over a foot long.  They become woody enough to provide a Winter show all their own.

 

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Of course, the show is only at its best with a bit of involvement from you.  The vine becomes multi-stemmed, but with age, the diamond stripes of adolescent stems enlarge to crowd out all the mahogany.  The multigenerational display of stems isn't nearly as engaging as a display just of adolescents and juveniles.

 

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What to do?  I'm going to cut out a couple of the oldest stems each Spring, in hopes of encouraging, as here, young stems that sprout right from the base of the vine.

 

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In two years, none of the stems of my vine will be more than three years old; all of them will be diamond adolescents or shiny juveniles.

 

 

Here's how to grow this gentle giant of a vine:


Latin Name

Ampelopsis megalophylla

Common Name

Giant Pepper Vine

Family

Vitaceae, the Grape family. 

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous woody vine.

Hardiness

Zones 6 - 9.

Habit

Woody vine that climbs by long tendrils.  Multi-stemmed.

Rate of Growth

Stately.  Considering the rampant growth of all of its cousins, astoundingly slow. 

Size in ten years

My plant is just entering its second decade.  It has multiple stems, some of which are eight feet long.  Ultimately to twenty to thirty feet, but probably not for many years more.

Texture

Voluptuous: Full without being heavy.

Grown for

its foliage: The pinnate leaves are the largest of any hardy vine, and can be one to two feet long, and with notably larger leaflets than those of its nearest competitors, wisteria and trumpet-vine.

 

its restrained growth:  In a family reknowned for (and often avoided because of) stems that lengthen several yards a month, Ampelopsis megalophylla is the plodder.  Most stems grow a couple of feet over the season, at best, with only a favored few putting on four or five.

 

its colorful seeds:  Small greenish-white flowers are reported to mature to showy clusters of red berries that age to black, and which are, at any stage, the size and color of pepper corns.  My vine blooms, but doesn't set seed.  Perhaps two individuals are needed?  The flowers are "perfect," meaning that they have functioning stamens as well as pistils, which, in turn, means that you don't need a male plant and a female plant, as you do with, say, holly.  Or maybe I'm missing a pollinator.  Or possibly the vine is slow in all aspects, and even in its eleventh year isn't mature enough to set seed.

Flowering season

Summer; the flowers are small and greenish-white, and are not showy.

Color combinations

Ampelopsis megalophylla goes with everything.

Partner Plants


The large mid-green foliage has a lush tropical feel, and would be displayed beautifully against small and darker-leaved evergreens, such as yew and box.  If those shrubs are large enough, they can also be the supporting structure into which the Ampelopsis can explore.            

Where to use it in your garden

In my experience, Ampelopsis megalophylla is too slow to use to cover a pergola as you would other large-foliaged vines such as wisteria or campsis.  The pergola would be half-rotten with age by the time the Ampelopsis had finally given it a full canopy.  Instead, plant this vine as a large-scale "accessory" for an even larger broad-leaved shrub, through which it can slowly ramble in the warm months, and against which its beautiful young stems will be highlighted in the cold.    

Culture

Full sun to shade, and almost any soil with good drainage.  You'd think growth would be faster in full sun, but you can't prove it by me.  

How to handle it:  The Basics

Plant in Spring, near a support structure or sizable shrub or tree that the vine's tendrils can reach, and then let the vine do its thing.

How to handle it: Another option—or two?


 Because the bark of the young stems is mahogany, whereas that of older stems is a less interesting light tan, site the vine where the stems are in view, especially in the cooler months.  Each Spring, cut a couple of the older stems down completely to encourage new growth from the base, and also remove their boring coloring from the overall picture.  This renewal pruning also limits overall size, and changes the vine's habit to that of a more self-supporting shrub.

Quirks or special cases

None.

Downsides

Ampelopsis megalophylla may self-seed as successfully as other Ampelopsis species and cultivars, although I haven't experienced this myself.

Variants

Ampelopsis megalophylla hasn't provided any cultivars, but it does have cousins.  A. brevipedunculata is the most popular, with galloping growth and clusters of berries that, individually, can be blue or pink or lilac or purple or turquoise, hence its common name of porcelain vine.  It can self-seed ferociously.  A. brevipedunculata 'Elegans' has variegated foliage; it's less vigorous but still self-seeds. 

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

By cuttings and by seed.

Native habitat

Ampelopsis megalophylla is native to China.

 
 
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