The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making

July Observations: I Heard it Through the Grape Vine


The vines are conspiring to swallow up my garden: Grape, bind, Clematis, Creeper, Hops, Dutchman’s. Out of all of them the bindweed is the worst (notice I didn’t even give it the honor of a capital B).


This formerly thought of as fern, smooth sumac, Mountain Ash! – another story in itself and probably planted by birds – is engulfed in Grape, Creeper and I wouldn’t doubt, bindweed.

The best behaved is, believe it or not, Virginia Creeper, sticking to the chain link  fence and not sashaying over to any trees or shrubs. The perennial star is of course, Coral Honeysuckle. Untitled

The youngest, hardy Kiwi.

The slowest growing, but surely worth the wait if I can keep a clear area, Hydrangea Firefly. Untitled

Then there is annual Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory that grows with abandon, reseeding itself everywhere.


Grandpa Ott’s growing with and among squash.

And poor, poor Cardinal patiently waiting in “step land” along with a few others, to be planted. (I recently toured a garden that had a low wall of plants still waiting to be planted and I felt much better about my little step land).


Step Land

Newly added this year Passion Flower, Gloriosa Lily and Corkscrew who is sporting buds (trying to contain myself!).


I didn’t expect Passion Flower to grow this large, outgrowing the bamboo tripod and right up to the roofline of our back porch. The other day I counted 6 open blooms – beautiful!


Corkscrew vine, along with another Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory, has outgrown the 10 ft copper piping. Gloriosa Lily is tucked in here, too.

Gloriosa Lily

Gloriosa Lily bloom

But I have to step back a minute as the realization dawns, when did I become such a vine addict? I remotely remember in some dark corner file of my mind, “vines bridge the gap between the mid layer of the forest and the canopy completing a layered habitat” or some thought similar. I associate vines with birds and I love the birds. (I also love this song “I Like Birds” by the Eels.)

I remember finding a small bird’s nest in clematis Comtesse de bouchaud when cutting it down one spring for regrowth. It is still running wild. And handsome Dutchman’s Pipe seems to be suffering this year. I would love to transplant him to the front porch.


Clematis Rooguchie is also running rampant among Bee Balm and Ninebark. Seems he prefers to ramble among the plants and not on the fence.

Clematis Claire de Lune has taken off this year and has also outrun her support.


Clematis Claire de Lune

Bindweed has plans to make me blue. The devil has wound its way up my Blue Spruce. The Grapevine is not far behind I see. Untitled

I will PAVE a path into this jungle so that I can keep the vines trimmed if that’s what it takes. My new strategy is to make a path with these 2 inch thick stepping stones. That old path of the nice river rocks? Not a trace of it left. Untitled

I know a man ain’t supposed to cry, but I fear I may. I’ve made so many mistakes. That bindweed? Oh, in my naive days I thought it was “wild morning glory.” It came bound with my Blue Spruce – irresponsible nursery I say. I have never been back to purchase from there. I actually “saved” it to grow on the then chain link fence. I remember writing on this blog how I would rather have bindweed than an ugly, bare chain link fence! Well, we all have our regrets. Another mistake; behold the Wall of Grapes on its second surge after being brutally cut back. Wouldn’t Dutchman’s Pipe be beautiful here instead? How I wish I could “plant it back.”



The other side of the Wall of Grapes.

Admittingly, however, I love the grapes in winter (not that I’ll be here – ha!) with their cinnamon colored bark and deep, dark berries (if uneaten) drying on the vine. Plus when they flower the whole porch smells like fresh grape juice, kind of a nice feature. Forgiven.

Did I know that Trumpet Vine suckers before I planted it to grow along the rustic arbor? I am not sure but I am not one afraid to make mistakes, obviously. I am sure I would have planted it anyway because I find it so tropical and lush for such a cold, harsh climate. It seems almost a miracle. It is suckering of course, up through the garlic, the raised beds, and on. I still have the dream of it becoming an aged, living arbor kind of magic form in the garden. UntitledUntitledI may even lose my garage to Clematis Virginiana and Hops, if I believe half of what I see. The Clematis actually toppled earlier in the season but she is still loaded with blooms. I have to think metal support soon. Untitled

I still have grand plans for my favorite contractor to build a pergola across the garage above the door to support the Hops. Right now it is growing on parachute line strung up to the roof of the garage. The Hops is also loaded with blooms. Untitled



All these vines and this vertical stairway to heaven transport me. I often have visitors to my garden exclaim that it feels like we’re not even in the village – a very welcome compliment! It’s this surround sound of vine and bird that lose you in my garden. I can’t imagine not growing these lush ladders full of life.

Losin’ you would end my life you see, ’cause you mean that much to me … I heard it through the Grapevine.


Author: Kathy Sturr

Cultivating art, growing soul, and creating plant-based food in the beautiful 1000 Islands, New York and Cedar Key, Old Florida.

13 thoughts on “July Observations: I Heard it Through the Grape Vine

  1. it does look rather lush and tropical for a northern garden

  2. A wonderful jungle that hopefully won’t cover the house like Sleeping Beauty’s castle! 😀 Your post makes me want to plant more clematis. I have four now, but one can never have enough!

  3. Oh Diana, such a nice way to put it. It certainly is uh, “lush” but I hear the catbird meowing and I’m reminded the garden is not just for me. I’ll reign a few things in come cooler weather – now is not the time. I am really liking the tropical annual vines – they help all the “lushness” look purposeful.

  4. That trumpet vine over the rustic arbour is a sight for sore eyes! As for bindweed: what a brute.

  5. You inspire me to have more vines! I have some but not some of the clematis. I need some color. I totally agree with the trumpet vine. I find it growing in the middle of my flower beds. I just pull it out and it reappears. I have no doubt it will cover that arbor soon enough. I had one on the entrance to my garden and I added an extra metal arbor this spring and it is all covered. I find them along the river growing here in Illinois. They are native but sometimes one has to be careful with native plants. They can take over a place-LOL.
    I have found the “Grandpa Ott’s Morning Glory” to be such a beautiful vine but I agree it can be invasive, too. I find it harder to even pull out than the trumpet! It grows in the middle of my flwoer bed wrapping around individual plants-GRRR. Then I try to pull it out and it take the entire plant:-(
    I do have to admit , I love it in my brunch/tea-coffee/morning garden. All those lovely purple blooms. Any where else in the garden-grrr…lol
    Your garden is so beautiful and I love how you work the vertical-you inspire me to add some clematis!

    • Robbie, be careful of those vines! Hey, isn’t poison ivy a vine? I am waiting for the day I accidentally discover it in my garden – the birds, you know. Grandpa Ott’s is becoming one of my takeovers – yes, I have many – a whole army! Clematis is a well behaved vine for the most part – plant some to mix with your Grandpa Ott’s – beauty! Clematis Virginiana is a wild, raving animal in my garden but that must mean she likes it. She is just starting to bloom – yay!

  6. Finally catching up Kathy! I love vines too and seem to be overrun recently with wild grapevines that have a foothold. But some of my vines are struggling this year as I cut them back or weather just was not kind to them. Bindweed is not too bad here yet….I have loads of other invasives to deal with so I am thankful.

    • We just cut back our wild grape vines again on the front porch so we could free the flag. They are really growing this year! Bindweed is the worst to deal with and I can’t dig out all the roots because I have shrubs and trees – #@$! There’s always something to deal with isn’t there? But I say it’s all worth it.

  7. Recently, a visiting friend made a reference to “wild morning glory,” and after a moment of puzzlement, I asked incredulously, “Do you mean bindweed?! Don’t encourage it!” Once that stuff gets a foothold it is so hard to get rid of it. I had to police my Gettysburg garden carefully looking for new twines of bindweed so that I could get them out of there before they got any bigger. (I always found them easiest to pull up in the spring after a rain.) Happily, all your other vines are both beautiful and highly desirable — like good children trying to compensate for the bad behavior of a troublesome sibling.

    • Oh that bindweed has escaped my policing which is why I need to put in a path so I can easily pull it but now it is on the move boo hoo. Yes, at least it has a little competition.

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