Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Morning Glory as a Privacy Screen

I've been taking photos of great balcony and fire escapes gardens in Hyde Park lately, though that post will come out a little later. For now, since many people are probably eager to start growing something up their fences, chain-link or not, I thought I'd share my thoughts on Morning Glory.

I know it isn't exciting. It's a relatively late starter (zone 5b). It collapses with the first cold snap. When it goes, it looks like rotting lettuce on the fence. Mr. Brownthumb  admits he doesn't care for the common varieties (though he mentions a few more unusual ones that he prefers).

But since I just suffered a round of clematis wilt, I'm finding more to like about Morning Glory. My greatest gripe is that in my afternoon-sun-only garden, this is what it normally amounts to by mid July.

Disappointing early growth of Morning Glory; but cute heart shaped leaves
Even with the freakishly warm spring this year, it has only grown about half that high as of mid June!

Then again, by late July, August, September (maybe October if the weather is nice)...the tables are turned:
Morning Glory grown on a short chain-link fence with a taller bamboo trellis attached

That (above) is a 3 foot tall chain-link fence with a 6 foot bamboo trellis wired securely to it. Once the Morning Glory grows up, the privacy is fantastic. When it's covered with flowers, it's enchanting.

Although it seems made for chain-link, it grows on anything. Here it is on an arbor:

Morning Glory on an arbor

You can find photos of Morning Glory blooms, and Morning Glory on fences or growing up a post, as well as a good discussion about it at gardenweb.com .  My fellow Hyde Park garden blogger at A Modest Plot also clued me in to the fact that there are two types of Morning Glory: perennial and annual. I only know the annual kind, which seems much friendlier to work with!

In sum, my (inexpert) thoughts about morning glory on chain-link fences:

*eventually provides good dense foliage and privacy
*in 4 years, I've never seen it suffer any serious die back, nothing like clematis wilt or black spot on roses
*can cover a large, high area completely--no gaps
*gorgeous blooms, cute heart shaped leaves
*bounces back well from extreme heat
*cheap and/or self seeding
*twines/clings on its own, takes to chain-link easily
*it's often already there anyway!

*can become a 'monster weed'--needs constant, heavy cutting back by late July (no skill necessary!)
*you will have to either a) weed a lot the following spring or b) nip the seed pods off continually after each bloom dies. Or both. Mulching helps control new growth though.
*wear gloves and long sleeves when handling (I always get a light rash on my arms and hands)
*apparently the seeds contain LSD and can be poisonous to certain animals, like cats, though I can't see many cats wanting to eat or chew it on purpose
*starts pretty late in the season (zone 5B); roses, clematis and grapevine leaf out much earlier 
*can die back suddenly with the first cold snap (below 30F) and then looks terrible until it dries out
*can choke other plants
*a nuisance to remove from a chain-link fence; I believe it's easier and quicker to pull the vines out while they're still green and strong. Or you can leave it on the fence for a brambly winter look.
*the good dense foliage can limit air circulation, which I think can increase the risk of mildew, black spot, etc. on nearby roses.

 So yes, it's a real bother of a plant. But once again, somehow, I'm using it.

Future chain-link fence posts may include the following plants: Honey Suckle, Trumpet Creeper (beware), Black Eyed Susan, climbing roses, and Hyacinth Bean. Shrubs might include Buddleia (butterfly bush) and various evergreens.

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