Nancy Brachey

Pick a vine for your chain-link fence


Chain-link fences are a common sight in backyards. You have a big dog or a few children, you put up a chain-link fence. You buy a house, the fence is there, and you live with it.

And you yearn to cover it up.

One of my readers asked recently about choosing a vine to conceal the fence. This is a worthwhile project, but one that requires some thought.

The amount of sun or shade will be a key factor in making the selection. Many popular flowering vines, such as mandevilla, demand full sun for best flowering. Others, such as Carolina jessamine, will do fine in part sun, part-shade, because they bloom before most shade trees leaf out. And, of course, part of the fence may be in full sun and other stretches in part-shade.

A second factor is deciding whether you want a permanent vine that will develop over many years from small plants set out this spring. Or are you aiming for something instant and want a vine such as the black-eyed susan vine, that will bloom robustly this year, even if it is wiped out by freezing weather late this year. These are the tender, annual vines.

Many choices are out there. Here are some good ones:

Annual vines

These bloom well but don’t survive freezing weather.

Mandevilla: A robust, tropical vine for full sun that bears larger pink or red blooms amid good-looking foliage. Plants can grow beyond 12 feet through the year and require support such as heavy twist-ties to hold to the fence.

Black-eyed susan: Small yellow or orange flowers appear on vines that usually reach 8 feet over the summer. The medium-green foliage is very pretty. This plant would do best in morning sun and away from the hottest rays of afternoon sun.

Moonvine: This relative of the morning glory is an outstanding choice, but you have to wait a bit for it to bloom. Start with seeds now or plants set out soon in full sun or part shade. Bloom begins in late afternoon starting about midsummer and continues through the autumn. Flowers, which stay open even as darkness falls, are large white blooms shaped like morning glory flowers but bigger. Vines can reach 12 to 15 feet over the season.

Evergreen vines

Carolina jessamine: An outstanding choice among evergreen vines, the jessamine bears glossy green foliage all year and beautiful golden yellow blooms for many weeks in spring. Once it gets growing, this plant takes off, possibly reaching 20 feet over time.

Coral honeysuckle: Also called trumpet honeysuckle, this twining vine bears very pretty trumpet shaped flowers that are coral on the outside, yellowish on the inside from spring into summer. Red berries follow the flowers in late summer. Vines can reach 12 feet or more in sun or part shade. You will have to train it through the chain links from an early age.

Crossvine: This is a strong plant for a sunny spot on a strong fence. The blooms appear in spring and are bright blossoms shaped like reddish, fragrant trumpets. Part shade will produce fewer blooms. Crossvine produces tendrils that will help the vine attach itself to the chain links. It will eventually cover a long stretch of fence, possibly 30 feet.

Nancy Brachey:

Ask Nancy

Q. I want to plant a lot of peppers this summer. Is it warm enough yet?

A. We’re almost there. The soil is getting warmer by the day after a very cool stretch in April. Wait for May 1. Then get going on your pepper garden.