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Trellis Tips


by Teresa Odle

If you’re like me, you prefer looking at a beautiful flowering vine to your neighbor’s garbage can. Even  when  you know and like your neighbors, you enjoy privacy in certain areas of your home and yard. A well-placed trellis can help provide privacy and it’s a practical tool for controlling growth of certain vines and plants.

Got tomatoes? How about metal cages to hold them up? Instead, you can use a trellis system with multiple sides. It’s much more attractive and still does the trick. Trellises also work for keeping cucumbers and grapes off the ground and look much better than cages, ropes, metal wire or chains and other homemade devices. And some ornamentals, such as Gelsemium sempervirens, or Carolina jessamine or jasmine, require a trellis or some sort of support.

The best feature of trellises, however, is that they serve an architectural and decorative purpose in the garden. You can use them as a sort of wall for privacy, to separate areas of the garden, cut wind or add height for effect. Whether

Trellises add character and privacy to your garden.

Trellises add character and privacy to your garden.

you add a trellis for looks or practical reasons, consider a few tips:

  • Think about how you’ll anchor the trellis to the wall or structure or into the ground. Manufactured trellises should come with anchors.
  • The strength of the trellis and anchor system depend on the plant you intend to train around it. Our neighbor had English ivy on an old wooden trellis and we knew it was going to collapse any day. It did about month ago, taking our privacy with it. Ivy is too heavy for the structure it was on, especially if not constantly trimmed.
  • That leads to the next tip: You have to keep up with the plant. Just putting a trellis in doesn’t mean the plant automatically grows how and where you want it to go. You need to keep up with regular trimming and help direct the plant’s growth onto and around the trellis. It still beats letting a vine run amok on the ground, fence, roof or into other plants and should require less maintenance.
  • Trimming also helps improve the look and use of your trellis, leaving some space for sun and breeze if you choose. You may not want shade (Aristolochia durior, or Dutchman’s Pipe, is a good choice), so keep that in mind when you choose the plant and as you trim. Or you may want quick coverage; if so, choose a fast grower such as Polygonum auberti, or Silver Lace vine.

Finally, check to see if the plant is evergreen if you want your trellis covered all year long.