I want to plant flowering climbing vines to help cool and shade the south and west walls of my house. How should I select the best varieties to plant and how can I build an inexpensive trellis for them? D.X.A - Flowering climbing vines are an attractive and effective natural method to cool your home and now is the best time to plant them. Every imaginable color of flower or bright berry is available. Several vines also have attractive leaves with unique shapes and color patterns.
You should plant deciduous vine varieties, especially on the south side. Select those that don't have a heavy vine pattern so that the sun can shine through on to the walls in the winter.
Check the weather "hardiness zone" of each variety of climbing vine. Not all varieties can survive severe winter temperatures. Also consider the maximum length of vine to be sure it will cover the trellis that you build.
In addition to just providing shade for your house, vines cool by a natural process called transpiration. As they give off moisture, the air is cooled, like when you perspire. Vines planted several feet from your wall can lower the air temperature near the wall by 10 degrees or more.
Since climbing vines consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, they actually improve the environment and reduce the harmful greenhouse effect. Running an air conditioner just contributes to air pollution, global warming, and destruction of the ozone layer.
Two excellent groups of vines for shading are ones that attach themselves with tendrils and ones that twine. Vines that attach directly to a wall are effective, but they may hold in moisture and damage the wall.
Twining types of vines are excellent for growing on a trellis. You can build a simple copper wire trellis for the vines to twist around. Copper quickly weathers to a green color, so it blends with the vines and it doesn't block much sun in the winter.
When you purchase twining vines, ask the salesperson which way they twist, clockwise or counterclockwise. Most varieties twist one way or the other. You must know this to twist them the proper way when you plant them.
For a south-facing sliding glass door or picture window, plant a climbing vine that naturally grows horizontally, too. Make a copper wire trellis that runs vertically up the west side of the window and horizontally along the top to form an awning. Once the vines grow up the side and across the top, the window will be shaded all day.
You can write to me for Utility Bills Update No. 489 listing 45 varieties of climbing vines, common and botanical names, vine lengths, whether they flower and its color, hardiness zones, and a hardiness zone map of the U.S. Write to James Dulley, The Deseret News, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. Please include $1.50 and a self-addressed business-size envelope.