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Vermont Garden Journal: Dazzling Tropical Vines For Your Summer Garden

The tropical vine, mandevilla features large, colorful, trumpet-shaped flowers on winding vines that need support.
The tropical vine, mandevilla features large, colorful, trumpet-shaped flowers on winding vines that need support.

This time of year annual flower gardens are in their glory. Some of the best gardens are those featuring topical vines. Although we live in a cold climate, you can grow tropical vines in summer as annuals. It just takes a little attention to when, where and how you plant them.

Some of my favorite tropical vines include mandevilla, cardinal climber and cup and saucer vine. Mandevilla features large, colorful, trumpet-shaped flowers on winding vines that need support. These are often grown in hanging baskets to trail downward. Some gardeners even bring mandevilla vines indoors overwinter with varying degrees of success. Cardinal climber or cypress vine has small, red flowers on a cut or palm-shaped leaf vine that can get aggressive even in the North. It's even considered an invasive species in warmer climates. Hummingbirds love the bright, trumpet-shaped flowers. Cup and saucer vine has white and purple colored, honey-scented flowers that look like little cups. Like the cardinal climber, the cup and saucer vine can get large so is best grown on a tall fence or trellis.

What all these vines have in common is a love of full sun, heat and fertility. It's best to grow them in containers to get an early start on the season. Grow these vines from transplants started indoors under lights or purchased locally. Plant once the air and soil temperatures have warmed to 65 degrees. You might have to wair till June in some areas. Provide a trellis, fence or stakes for the vines to climb up or grow where they can cascade down out of a container. Keep plants well-watered and fertilized every few weeks to get lots of growth and flowering before the weather cools. For a few months in summer your garden will be dazzling with these tropical beauties.

Now for this week's tip: watch for the tomato hornworm caterpillars on the tops of tomato plants. These large insects will devour leaves overnight. Pick and drop them into a pail of soapy water or feed them to your chickens.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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