Growing Up: Vertical Gardens are Perfect for Projects Big and Small

A vertical garden is simply a garden that grows upward on a support system rather than growing horizontally on the ground. The concept has been a part of gardening for hundreds of years, but recently vertical gardens have taken off as a top gardening trend.

Perhaps one reason for its popularity is that vertical gardening can be done in any space, regardless of size. Vertical gardens can be the most efficient way to create a garden if you have limited space. And, of course, more plants means more potential benefits to pollinators by supplying habitat and food sources, and more potential environmental benefits through passive cooling and storm water absorption.

Native vines can be a great option for building a vertical garden. For home gardeners, there are several low-maintenance native vines small enough to train on a lamp post or trellis.

Trumpet honeysuckle is a good climber, with brilliant coral flowers and woody stems. It prefers full sun. Yellow honeysuckle has woody stems and orange-yellow flowers. It can grow in full sun or part shade. Both honeysuckle varieties have berries, bright red in the trumpet honeysuckle and orange-red for yellow honeysuckle. The berries aren’t edible, but attract birds. Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the flowers of both varieties.

Note: These native species of honeysuckle are not to be confused with the highly invasive Japanese honeysuckle.

Another native vine option for home-gardeners is Clematis, which grows to be 6-8 feet tall. Two recommended varieties are Clematis pitcheri and Clematis versicolor. Clematis pitcheri blooms in June and July, producing purple leather flowers followed by curly clusters of seeds. Clematis versicolor blooms from May-September. It has slightly large, pale purple and lavender flowers, and feather whorls of seeds.

Native vines can be used in large scale projects, too. Supple-jack and cross vine can both grow to be 20 to 50 feet tall. Crossvine climb using tendrils with suction cups and has showy flowers at the top. Supple-jack has dark green foliage and brilliant yellow fall color.

Both of these vines were used in the newly-installed, and soon to be open to the public, three-story vertical garden on the west side of the Emerson Center, part of The Sheldon Concert Hall and Art Galleries.

Scott Woodbury, manager of horticulture at Shaw Nature reserve, advised on the project. The design also includes a plaza with native plantings, rain gardens, and the three-story vertical garden. Visit this new public green space at 3648 Washington Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63108, between the Pulitzer Arts Foundation and The Fabulous Fox theater.

Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

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