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GardenSMART :: Best Climbers for Wildlife

Best Climbers for Wildlife

By Kate Karam, Monrovia
Photographs courtesy of Monrovia

We love vines for all the garden problems they help to solve (covering things up, blocking things out, making the kinda ugly, pretty) but climbing vines–whether those that cling by aerial rootlets, or those that need the support of a trellis or other structure–are also a welcome sight for wildlife passing through.

Many vines are little food factories (pollen, nectar, fruits) while others provide cover for nesting birds (especially the space between a wall and a trellis), and resting places for pollinators. Some take space; others can be grown in containers.

With Earth Day around the corner, we put the spotlight on this group of wonderful plants that do double duty, making both you and wildlife happy!

Here are four we recommend you consider adding to your own garden sanctuary.

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Princess Diana Clematis

Clematis texensis 'Princess Diana'

Striking, deep reddish pink, tulip-shaped flowers with cream and maroon stamens on dainty and abundant blooms that blanket the garden first in mid- to late summer, then return for an encore in fall. Tall climber, but a good rambling groundcover, too. Zones: 5-9

Attracts: Hoverflies, moths, butterflies, beetles and solitary bees. Provides excellent nesting cover for birds.

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Amethyst Falls American Wisteria

Wisteria frutescens 'Amethyst Falls'

Drenched in fragrance and draped languorously over a fence or pergola, wisteria is a beguiling charmer with the power to hypnotize. This one's native to the U.S. and is perfect for smaller spaces. Grows at about a third the rate of Asian wisteria and blooms at an early age, with its lightly fragrant purple racemes weeping gracefully downward. Use in containers for porch or patio, train up an arbor or trellis, or as a small freestanding tree. Zones: 5-9

Attracts: Bumblebees! Butterfly larval host for Horace's Dusky Wing and Silver-spotted Skipper.

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Green Showers Boston Ivy

Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Green Showers'

A member of the grape family, this is a self-clinging, vigorous, deciduous vine with extra large green leaves that turn rich burgundy in fall. It is a vine to use when you want a long-term solution. Zones: 4-9

Attracts: Bees (love the tiny flowers), birds (thrushes, waxwings, starlings, blackbirds), butterflies, hoverflies.

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Pink Parfait® Mandevilla

Mandevilla x amabilis 'Rita Marie Green'

This twining evergreen vine displays unusual, double, trumpet-like, vibrant pink flowers; perfect for patio gardens in humid climates. The tubular inner petals are a vibrant signal to pollinators as ample suppliers of nectar. Evergreen in frost-free regions; treat as a summer annual in cooler regions. Zones: 10-11

Attracts: Hummingbirds. Hummingbirds. Hummingbirds. And bees.

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