A Gardening Journal

Now 'til Frost in the Garden of a Lifetime: High Season for Moonvine

The growth capacity of annual vines can be just this side of scary. Giant woolly morning glory, Argyreia nervosa, can climb thirty feet in a Summer—and that's just during New England's comparatively brief and cool one. In its native India? Maybe twice as high. Madeira vine, Boussingaultia basseloides, is another tree-smothering terror where hardy, but is merely exuberant here.

 

Moonvine, Ipomoea alba, aspired to similar heights, racing twelve feet high in August, then waving around for even higher conquests. But then came the possibility of a visit from Hurricane Hermine: Time for the white guy-lines in the picture.

 

Ipomoea alba tower overall seen from the east 090616 640

 

My fourteen-foot tripods could handle thunderstorms. Here's how they were constructed: In late May, I pounded a fourteen-foot pole into the ground through the center drainage hole of a 25-gallon black nursery pot. I braced it by pounding in three ten-foot poles at an angle, so that each went through one of the pot's perimeter drainage holes at the bottom, and touched the center pole at the top. Then I tied those bracing poles securely to the center pole. I filled the pot with potting soil and planted three foot-tall Ipomoea alba.

 

By early September, the vines' vigorous, multistemmed growth was so profuse that you'll need to look patiently below to see even one of the bracing poles. It's at the center right of the shot, entering the soil inside the pot's edge.

 

Ipomoea alba 25 G nursery pot 090616 640

 

As luck would have it, Hermine stayed out to sea, bringing only light rain and gusty winds that ruffled the moonvine leaves impressively. No matter: The towers of annual vines were fine. In the middle is a tower of Basella alba 'Rubra', Malabar spinach and, in the distance, one of Cobaea scandens, cup and saucer vine.   

 

Ipomoea alba vine towers seen from the West looking East 090516 640

 

The white clothesline I used to guy the towers is unexpectedly ornamental. From the west, the guys enhance the impact of the series of towers even more powerfully.  Their color echoes that of the house in the distance, while their pointed form relates to the roofline as it brings in a New Age pyramidal vibe.

 

Looking east at Vine Towers guyed for Hurricane Hermine 090416 640

 

All of these annual vines are completely frost tender so, by late October, they'll be dead. The guys are even more ephemeral: On Monday, September 19, I'll host a garden tour for up to sixty colleagues in design, friends, and clients. Stormy weather isn't in the forecast, but I'll enjoy the show of the guys right until the day before. Thank goodness for the twelve-foot orchard ladder, which makes all of this high-altitude showmanship possible.

 

 

Here's how to grow Ipomoea alba, as well as close-ups of its ravishing blooms.

 

 
 
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