Photos/Alice Marty

Perennial vines Lonicera sempervirens (left) and Manietta Cordifolia with a clematis seed head (right).

by Nancy Adams, Mobile Master Gardener

We expect our yards and gardens to be beautiful and welcoming, right? So we read, plan, shop, dig, plant, weed and work hard to make them the best they can be. But still, there’s the feeling something’s missing.

Here in the Deep South, vines are a big part of our heritage and blend well into the landscape. Think about how a carefully selected scarf can set off a black dress, or how that special tie enhances a classy blue suit. Climbing or trailing perennial vines may be that perfect accent for your garden.

A popular genus of climbing perennial vines in American Horticultural Society zones 8 and 9 is clematis, which has numerous varieties, some of the most popular being:

• Clematis alpina — a deciduous vine with long stalks and beautiful 1-inch to 3-inch flowers of multiple colors.

• Clematis integrifolia — This variety grows to 3 feet high with blue urn-shaped flowers measuring about 1.5 inches wide, and grows best in zones 1-8.

• Clematis armandii — This shade-tolerant vine grows to 8 feet high and has pale pink flowers measuring 2 inches on long stalks. It grows best in zones 6 to 9.

• Clematis lanuginosa — This species normally blooms twice a year, once in spring and again in summer. It grows well in zones 1 through 9 and has larger flowers than most other clematis species. However, it is susceptible to the plant disease known as “clematis wilt,” which has also been passed on to other species.

Some other favorite perennial vines suggested by Nita Crandall of Mobile Botanical Gardens are:

• Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) — Native to the central and southern United States, this high-climbing vine has long red and yellow tubular flowers that have a pleasant mocha scent. It grows aggressively and can take over an area if not controlled.

• Climbing hydrangea (Deucamaria barbara) — This high-climbing vine that produces small white flowers in late spring and summer is in the hydrangea family and native to the Southeast. It is often found in wet forests.

• Yellow jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), also called Carolina jasmine and evening trumpet flower, is native to tropical areas, can grow to almost 20 feet and has broad green leaves. The clustered flowers are yellow and trumpet shaped, often with orange centers. This plant contains material that is poisonous to humans as well as honeybees. However, it is often used in warm areas to grow on arbors or cover walls.

• Swamp jessamine (Gelsemium rankinii) — Also known as Rankin’s trumpet flower, this hardy vine has yellow flowers and climbs to more than 20 feet.

• Lonicera sempervirens, also known as coral honeysuckle, trumpet honeysuckle or scarlet honeysuckle, grows to more than 20 feet and is a non-invasive evergreen in zones 8 and 9. Butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other birds are attracted to this vine, which has attractive flowers and is often grown as an ornamental. Mobile Botanical Gardens carries in its Marketplace the cultivar Sulphurea, which has yellow flowers.

• Manettia cordifolia, commonly known as Brazilian firecracker vine, is a favorite perennial summer bloomer that is easy to grow in zones 8 and 9. The vine grows in full sun to partial shade and reaches 8-20 feet tall. The showy flowers are red, scarlet and reddish-orange with blooms ranging from 1 inch to 2 inches, and bloom from late spring to fall. This vine also grows well in three-gallon or larger pots and is the perfect addition to the hummingbird garden.

• Amethyst Falls wisteria — This non-invasive vine grows to more than 30 feet and bears purple flowers that, from a distance, could be mistaken for clumps of grapes. It blooms in spring and, if lightly trimmed, will bloom again in summer. It thrives in full sun to partial shade, can be trained on fences, arbors or trellises, and butterflies love it.

For more information about these or other perennial vines, contact either the Mobile County or Baldwin County Office of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. These folks have a wealth of knowledge about plants and will be happy to share it with you.

Gardeners, check this out:

What: Market in the Square (look for the Master Gardener tent for gardening information)
Find: Local produce, homemade bread, jams, preserves, honey, crafts, music
Where: Cathedral Square, Mobile
When: Saturdays through July 28, 7:30 a.m. to noon

MBG: Mobilebotanicalgardens.org for information on fall classes and events.

Master Gardener Helpline: 1-877-252-4769 or send gardening questions to coastalalabamagardening@gmail.com.