One of the most common requests I get when visiting a customer is what will grow on my fence?
Well I know firsthand that both popular vines, Boston Ivy and Virginia Creeper, will cover the fence nicely and without the need for trellises to boot! I have both in my back yard that is surrounded by fence with narrow gardens between fence and the pool we inherited when we bought the house. Both vines provide nice fall colour and both are deciduous and lose their leaves in the late fall.
Here’s my opinion of the pros and cons of both of these vines.
1) Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Virginia Creeper is five-leaved ivy, or five-finger vine, it is a species of flowering plant in the vine family Vitaceae, native to eastern and central North America.
I didn’t plant Virginia Creeper but I “borrowed” it from my neighbour behind me. We are in a corner house so my backyard faces the side of my neighbours’ garage. When we moved in 8 years ago, the vine was covering their whole garage wall, right up the soffits.
I appreciated those few weeks of the vine covered garage. If I had to look at a brick wall in my backyard then it was great to see it covered with green… that is until they had it removed from their house, much to my chagrin.
Well I quickly learned there was no such thing as ‘removing’ Virginia creeper! Pro or con, you decide.
As it grew back with a vengeance, my next door neighbour and I decided to train it over the back and eventually side fence between us. If I had to look at a brick wall, I might as well have a green covered fence!
We were quite successful in a short period of time. The vine filled in nicely but needs constant trimming to keep it in check. You can see at the base of the fence that it even grows on the ground and seems to make a beeline for the pool. Since it is a deciduous vine it does allow for some hard pruning to keep it in check.
And even though Virginia Creeper plants attach to fences and walls with “pads” inside of tendrils, they still do a fair bit of twining and are constantly twining through my Japanese Maple (my one show piece in my virtually gardenless back yard). But my biggest pet peeve, believe it or not, is it also interferes with my ornamental grasses that I squeezed in front of it. It is constantly growing throughout the grass, ‘pulling it down’.
2) Boston Ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata
As for Boston Ivy, I didn’t plant it either. It was already planted in the narrow garden that I inherited along the fence but it was just a small patch and didn’t look like it was going to do much.
Well I guess this story is similar to the tortoise and the hare… as fast as the Virginia Creeper grew the Boston Ivy took its time filling in nice and slowly. It’s much bigger glossier leaves creating a thick matte along the fence attaching itself with similar tendrils as the Virginia Creeper.
So while I spent the last 8 years taming the Virginia Creeper, the Boston Ivy crept up on me and pleasantly surprised me with a nice glossy display.
I have tried to remove the Creeper from the back fence this summer and have let the Ivy fill in nicely. The nice cool spring may have contributed to its great growth this year but it has certainly taken its time.
So good or bad, I am sure when my customers want to know what will cover their fence, they mean now and not in 8 years!