GBDW – Trellises and Screens Wrap-Up

– Posted in: Garden Design
Birdhouse gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) at Linden Hill Gardens, Ottsville, PA

Bottle gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) at Linden Hill Gardens, Ottsville, PA

Yep, the topic of trellises and screens certainly didn’t strike the same chord as last month’s garden whimsy. But that’s okay: We still have a fair number of posts for this month’s Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop, so the info will be here if any of you decide in future that you need to block an ugly view or add some screening to create privacy. (For more options, check out the GBDW posts on fences and walls and arbors and pergolas as well.)

Clematis seedling on Rosa glauca May 2007

Clematis seedling on Rosa glauca

One issue brought up in a comment but not addressed by many posts was about trellises that work well for clematis. (In fact, the only one I saw was Gina’s post.) I’ve never had much luck with purchased supports for clematis, so I mostly let the stems weave up through shrubby companions. A side benefit of that approach is getting two seasons (or types) of bloom from what appears to be one plant: one set from the shrub and one from the clematis. Getting a small clematis settled in near an established shrub can be a little tricky, though: If you plant the clematis too close, the shrub may shade it out or compete too much for water. But if the two plants are too far apart, the clematis will likely sprawl and may find its way up a different companion (not always a bad thing, of course). I generally try to set the clematis about 1 foot out from the shrub’s branch tips, then add an angled stake to direct the vine toward the shrub.

One thing you have to watch for when pairing clematis – or any other vine – with another plant is that the vine doesn’t smother its partner. Even annual vines, such as cardinal climber (Ipomoea x multifida), can get pretty rambunctious in good growing conditions. If you really like the shrubby partner, that can be a problem, and you’ll need to do some judicious pruning to keep the vine in check. But if you’re trying to cover up a shrub that’s basically ugly anyway, then a nicely vigorous vine may be an excellent choice; no big deal if it kills its partner.

In fact, fast-growing vines can be a good solution if you already have a dead shrub or small tree that you need to cover up quickly, then remove later. Last year, my formerly beautiful katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), which I raised from a tiny seedling, decided to die suddenly, just a week before a big open-garden day. Out of desperation, I unwound the seedling clematis that was growing on it, cut the now-dead tree back to a 6-foot framework, then draped the clematis back over it. It formed a serviceable, natural-looking trellis, and I figure the tree remains will last quite a few more years. (The pictures below show the tree a few days before it died in late May 2007, and again about a month later.)

But enough about that: Let’s move on the other blog posts about trellises and screens. Here are the ones I know about, in no particular order. If I missed your existing post, if you decide to do one later, or if you want to chime in on the clematis topic, please leave a link below!

Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop – Trellises and Screens (Nan at Gardening Gone Wild): Kick-off post for this month’s topic.

Super Sturdy Trellis (Brian at Meadowwood Garden): Tired of wimpy supports that drop your veggies in the dust? See Brian’s step-by-step instructions for building your own Trellis of Awesomeness.

New Trellis Screen (Pam at Digging): Check out the cool screen Pam constructed from posts and a cattle-fencing panel to separate the play and sitting spaces in her backyard.

Trellises and Dreams (Jean at Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog): Jean shares two out-of-the-ordinary support structures for climbers in her Louisiana garden.

Arbors and Trellises (Fran at Gardening Gone Wild): Fran offers a fun idea for a mini trellis and shows some of her favorite vine supports at Chanticleer.

Garden Blogger’s Design Workshop: Trellises and Screens (Gina at My Skinny Garden): Gina shares a variety of pre-fab, recycled, and “found” trellises that support the clematis and annual vines in her Chicago garden.

Design Workshop – Screens and Trellises (Michelle at Garden Porn): Looking for some inspiring ideas for high-class garden screens and trellises? Michelle’s post is a must-visit!

Garden Bloggers Design Workshop – Screening Out the Road (Craig at Ellis Hollow): See how a mixed planting of perennials, shrubs, trees, and vines can create a beautiful and functional alternative to a boring fence or hedge.

Eyesores in the Garden (Lois at Lois de Vries’ Garden Views): Come on, all you creative folks: Let’s give Lois some more ideas for screening the huge propane tank in her front yard.

The Screening Test (Nan at Hayefield): Can’t afford store-bought screening? Perennials can make a great alternative, but not all tall perennials are equally good for the job. Find out what one gardener looks for in a good screening perennial.

Trellis, Screen & Vine (Jim at Art of Gardening): If you want to dress up an outdoor seating area, get some privacy from nearby neighbors, or cram more planting area into a small space, you need to check out Jim’s post!

Malabar spinach and morning glories at Linden Hill Gardens, Ottsville, PA

Malabar spinach and morning glories at Linden Hill Gardens

Nancy J. Ondra
Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

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7 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Brian August 31, 2008, 8:33 am

This is an excellent resource! Thank you for including my how-to article in the list.

Looking at the other links in this post is inspiring! Safe to say that if you need support for your plants you are limited only by your imagination, and perhaps your budget. In fact, an idea is germinating in the back of my head for yet another trellis as I write this…

Great stuff!

Thanks for your comment, Brian, and for your participation this month! Good luck with your new project.

our friend Ben August 31, 2008, 11:56 am

I think trellises and screens are two of the trickiest but most useful resources available to gardeners. (This is true indoors, too, where the option is often overlooked.) For temporary screening, adding interest to a blank wall, creating garden rooms, adding the illusion of privacy to a deck or patio, or giving direction to a garden area, screens and trellises can’t be beat. As for clematis, when I first bought Hawk’s haven, there was a large sweet autumn clematis growing over what I at first took for an upright set of bedsprings against the back of the house. I eventually realized that it was simply a homemade wire trellis that somehow resembled bedsprings, but the clematis loved it. I added a Clematis montana ‘Rubra’ for spring bloom, and while exquisite clematis cultivars on more ornate trellises died out, my “bedspring” clematis keep going strong!

Hey, I remember that trellis. Could have sworn it really was a set of bedsprings! Well, as long as the plants are happy, anything is fair game.

Frances August 31, 2008, 8:34 pm

I am going to check out all of these posts to see if maybe next time this topic comes up I will be able to join in. Too many travels this month for me, but I love reading and looking at the photos these creative bloggers have come up with.

It *is* fun to see the different takes on the topic, isn’t it? And who knows what future projects they may inspire!

VP September 2, 2008, 5:02 am

Hi – love the articles thus far!

Sorry it’s a couple of days late, but we’ve had family staying with us. Here’s my effort for this month:

I probably won’t be contributing this month – I only have a bird bath in the garden, plus a temporary stream in very wet winters! However, I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else comes up with.

I appreciate you taking the time to contribute to this topic, VP; thanks! With all of the responses so far on water in the garden, I think you and I will have a lot to read in September.

Pam/Digging September 2, 2008, 10:49 am

Nan, I just posted some follow-up pics of my trellis screen, if you care to add that link to my contribution. Thanks!

Thanks for the update, Pam. I sure will add it when I update the main post.

Heirloom Gardener November 6, 2008, 11:30 pm


I’m sorry that I’m so late. Here’s a post in response to your wrap-up about the clematis I grow on the lattice screens below my deck.

-Heirloom Gardener

Thanks so much, HG, from me and from everyone who visits these archived posts to get design inspiration. It’s never too late to add links!

Lois J. de Vries November 22, 2008, 11:35 am

Hi Nan,
I thought your readers might be interested in a follow-up about our propane tank. New hardscape and plantings will have to wait ’til spring, but we moved the tank in mid-October.

Thanks for the update, Lois, and congratulations!

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