Lavendar wisteria flowers hang from an overhead trellis. (Getty Images)

Lavendar wisteria flowers hang from an overhead trellis. (Getty Images)

Give your garden a whole new dimension with climbing plants

From clematis and jasmine to wisteria and honeysuckle, let any of these vine varieties creep into your heart – and garden.

By Trevor Cameron / The Golfing Gardener

Going vertical with climbing plants adds visual interest to any garden, providing nice foliage and often ideal seasonal flower power.

There are useful vines out there in all shapes and sizes — some for larger areas and others to use as smaller garden accents or even as simple container specimens. Whether you are trying to grow on a decorative trellis or obelisk, up a post, along a railing, over a large pergola or arbor, or even naturalize something along a fence line, vines may be exactly what you are looking for.

Let’s start with one honest truth about vines: Reliably hardy evergreen options are few and far between for our climate. One of the most common questions I get from vine-seekers, year after year, is “which ones are evergreen?” There are indeed some evergreen choices, but many of these are right on the hardy line for the majority of us — locations closer to the water are usually easier, but farther inland they may not be so hardy. Finding a sheltered garden spot out of cold, desiccating winter winds, or even growing one in a container that can be moved for protection during cold spells, may help.

Here are a few options for evergreen vines:

Evergreen clematis (Clematis armandii): A great choice for part shade, sporting fragrant white flowers in spring. Grows rapidly and gets large, but can be pruned after flowering to control size. A variety called Apple Blossom has a light pink flower.

Evergreen climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea seemanii and H. integrifolia): These are for shade and will root into wood, brick, concrete or even tree trunks as they climb. They grow much slower and bloom with white lacecap-type flowers in summer.

Sausage vine (Holboellia coriacea): These produce fragrant color in early spring for shade, growing rapidly and producing cool, sausage-like fruits in summer, adding even more interest. The best variety for cold hardiness, to Zone 7, is the cultivar Cathedral Gem.

Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides): Jasmines love the heat and prefer full sun, producing fragrant white flowers in summer. Look for the variety Madison, an option that is a full zone hardier. Often these are good in containers so they can be protected.

The list of perennial/deciduous options for climbers is seemingly endless, almost all of which are far more reliably hardy than their evergreen cousins. Choices like clematis, honeysuckle, wisteria, climbing hydrangea and akebia (as well as many others) thrive in our climate, and although they may go bare in the winter, their flowers, foliage and often fragrance are spectacular in the garden.

Wisteria: These are a larger-growing option, covering whatever you have and then some. Provide them room in pure sunshine and give them a very sturdy support structure to twine around. These may be the most impressive vine in flower, dropping a plethora of massive, fragrant clusters in mid-spring that hang down in shades of white, pink, blue, lavender or purple, depending on the variety. You can find Chinese wisteria (W. sinensis), Japanese wisteria (W. floribunda), Silky wisteria (W. venusta) and American wisteria (W. frutescens), with cultivars of each, offering even more choices as well. You can prune these hard each year, but give them a wide berth to mature into a show-stopping specimen.

Clematis: The list of options with clematis is substantial, and one can be found to match any garden location for size, color and sun exposure.

Do some research and explore these, but be sure to consider these series: The Vancouver Series is outstanding and Pacific Northwest-bred, offering a number of good cultivars such as Fragrant Star, Starry Night and Cotton Candy — honestly, the whole series is full of worthy candidates. The Boulevard Series gives gardeners a bunch of choices as well, with many staying smaller in size, ideal for tight spaces or container growing.

With all clematis, please keep in mind pruning when choosing the right variety for you as some bloom on new wood, some on old, and some on both. The world of clematis is an article all on its own, and we will definitely delve into these at a later date.

Climbing hydrangea: These types of hydrangeas will grow in most locations, and as with many vines, they are even useful as a sprawling ground cover. Green foliage cultivars can be grown in sun to shade, while any variegated form will like a partially shaded location much better.

Options here are Hydrangea anomala var. Petiolaris (and cultivars) and also Schizophragma hydrangeiodes (and cultivars), both of which do nicely growing on surfaces and adhering themselves to wood fences, trees, brick or concrete. The Japanese type (Schizophragma cvs.) is a bit flatter for fences in shade, while Hydrangea anomala is a bit bushier and sprawling. Each has good variegated forms, adding much needed foliage interest to darker shade gardens. Both also sport lacecap flowers in early summer in either pink or white.

Honeysuckle: The flowers of these vines are pollinator magnets and often a hummingbird favorite in the garden. These bloom in late spring into summer and can be found in white, yellow, pink, orange, coral or red, often with two tones on the same flower. Many honeysuckle are fragrant and will fill the garden with sweet scents. Be sure to grow them in sun to avoid excessive powdery mildew issues, and give them a nice structure to grow and mature on, like a fence, arbor, pergola, gate arch or large trellis.

Akebia: The Chocolate Vine is one option that packs some serious growth, covering large areas in minimal time. They are mostly evergreen around here, and only in the coldest winters will they defoliate a bit. Gardeners can find white or pinky-purple flower varieties, and there is even a rare variegated form, too, if you hunt around. These will grow nicely in sun, part sun or more shade, and bloom with fragrant, drooping flower clusters in spring. Cool little fruits emerge on mature plants, adding more interest in summer to fall.

Akebia are an excellent choice for covering a large fence or structure, but they can be pruned hard after spring flowering to control size. This to me is the safest bet for an “evergreen” choice, and a popular purchase from our patrons at Sunnyside Nursery, as we have a nice one in our entrance garden.

Also, don’t forget climbing roses, which provide summer color and fragrance in full sun, all the way until frost. Consider growing a fun annual-type vine, as they are seasonal flower power all summer long. Try Black Eyed Susan (Thunburgia) or Chilean jasmine (Mandevilla), but wait just a bit until we warm up some more — usually by mid-May these are ready to rock for the season.

You could even literally eat your vine by growing a fun kiwi or grape, or do some home brewing with a selection of hops. Maybe you are looking for some fall color? Nothing beats the durability and brilliant autumn foliage of Boston ivy (Parthenocissus cvs.).

Take a look around the garden, I bet you can envision going vertical in a number of locations with vines. In both sun and shade, these plants will amaze you with their rapid growth and make you smile with their flowers.

Free classes

Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville will host “PNW Vines” at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 20, and “Useful Native Plants” at 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 21. For more information or to sign up, go to

Trevor Cameron is a certified professional horticulturist (CPH) and serves as general manager for Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. He can be reached at

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Collection of  colorful flowers and ornamental plants in pots against the wooden wall on a corner of town street,Japan
Thrillers, fillers and spillers: Show your style with striking containers

Get into the spirit of summer by breathing new life into your old pots with fresh arrangments of foliage and flowers.

Photo by Gina Shields of GM Photography
Whidbey Island to salute the fallen for Memorial Day

All are invited to honor those who have fallen at three events on Whidbey Island.

2024 Toyota Venza Limited crossover (Photo provided by Toyota)
2024 Toyota Venza Limited crossover

The car is a safe choice that’s still eco-friendly to help ease a guilty conscious.

Pet detective Jim Branson stops to poke through some fur that Raphael the dog found while searching on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Branson determined the fur in question was likely from a rabbit, and not a missing cat.(Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lost a pet? Pet detective James Branson and his dogs may be able to help

James Branson, founder of Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, helps people in the Seattle area find their missing pets for $350.

Cast-iron sign offers 3 simple steps for safety in case a train’s a comin’

Advising people to stop, look and listen, this old sign is more instructive than newer X-shaped railroad crossing signs.

2024 BMW i5
2024 BMW i5

BMW’s beloved 5 Series has been around for over 50 years. Now… Continue reading

The Solterra is Subaru’s first all-electric compact SUV. (Photo provided by Subaru)
2024 Subaru Solterra is updated with no increase in pricing

Improved charging ability, added EyeSight features and a new steering wheel are among the upgrades.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Whidbey Renaissance Faire volunteers pose in their costumes. (Photo by Bree Eaton)
Faire thee well: Renaissance is coming to Whidbey Island

The volunteer-run fair May 25 and 26 will feature dancers, a juggler, ‘Fakespeare,’ various live music shows and lots of food.

From a 17th-century warship to ABBA, Stockholm’s delights span the ages

The city — known for Nobel prizes, “Pippy Longstocking” and a very tall city hall — sits on 14 islands connected by 54 bridges.

On moving day for elderly mom, a moving reminder of what matters in life

Older adults don’t talk much about accomplishments during their working lives. Instead, they talk about the value of family.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.