are the current terms for a very old practice among gardeners. Vines
planted at the base of a building adhere to its walls or climb a
structure nearby, such as a trellis. A country cottage adorned with
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) or a stately
brownstone clad in Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) are
classic examples of this type of green wall.
Once considered simply a nice ornamental touch, vines are now
being recognized for their economic and environmental benefits.
Studies have demonstrated that vines planted on south-facing
walls can result in at least a 10-degree temperature reduction
on the wall’s surface. The shade provided prevents solar heat’s
absorption into the wall, resulting in reduced need for
decreased energy costs.
The process of transpiration, whereby plants take in water and
emit moisture through their leaves, further reduces heat when
the moisture from the leaves evaporates into the atmosphere.
Green walls also have benefits in winter. The air gap between a
vine and the exterior of a building reduce the effect of wind
chill, reducing heating costs. Vines also act as a sound barrier
and reduce the polluting effect of dust in the environment.
Boston ivy and Virginia creeper flourish in many climates and
require no additional structural support. They can be considered
nuisance vines when they climb upon woody plants or smother
nearby herbaceous perennials. Some say that vines damage
masonry, but sound structural walls are not damaged by their
usage. Painted surfaces and stucco walls are not good candidates
for vines that are self-clinging, as their roots and discs leave
For homeowners who wish to try their hand at green walls, the
best candidates are vines. Most of these selections require a
minimum of six hours of sun per day. Clematis like their leaves
in the sun but prefer a cool root zone, so perennials or shrubs
planted at the base are helpful. Boston ivy and Virginia creeper
will tolerate a shadier location, but their fall color will not
be as brilliant in shade. Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomola
subsp. petiolaris) prefers part shade, but it can be slow to
The following is a summary of vines and climbers suited to our
Zone 5b climate:
Boston ivy and Virginia creeper
climb via disc-like projections that attach to smooth surfaces.
They both are aggressive vines and will require some pruning,
but they will quickly achieve the energy-saving effects of
Climbing hydrangea and Japanese hydrangea vine
(Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’) have aerial roots
allowing them to climb without structural support. Japanese
hydrangea will tolerate part-shade.
including Kentucky (Wisteria macrostachya) and American (W.
frutescens), are better candidates than their Asian relatives.
But all wisterias are vigorous and require strong structural
support. They climb via twining stems that wrap themselves
around a support. If you desire a green wall featuring wisteria,
support it on a strong cable-like structure erected a short
distance from the building itself.
is a lovely vine that climbs by wrapping its leaf petioles onto
a structure. It requires some intervention to begin its climb by
wrapping or tying the vine onto a trellis or post. Vigorous
clematis vines suitable for façade greening include Clematis
montana, sweet autumn clematis (C. terniflora) and tougher,
large-flowered cultivars such as ‘Jackmanii,’ ‘Mrs. Cholmondeley,'
'Henryii' and ‘Perle d’Azur.’
require support. They produce long canes that can be tied to a
structure. There are roses suitable for façade greening, but
they require regular pruning. Reliable climbers in our area that
are relatively pest- and disease-free include ‘Sally Holmes,‘
’William Baffin,’ ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ (thornless) and ‘New
Dawn,’ a commonly recommended rose with brutal thorns that make
it tough to maintain.
Wall shrubs and fruit trees.
Apples, pears and grapes are good candidates to be trained as
espaliers. Espaliered fruit trees are trained and pruned to a
frame and are grown in a flat plane against a wall, usually with
southern exposure. Because they take up less space than most
fruit trees, espaliers are a good option for those wanting to
grow fruit in a small space.
(Actinidia arguta ‘Issai’) is a self-fertile female vine that
blooms in mid-summer and produces miniature kiwi fruits after
the first year of planting.
not plant vines invasive in our area,
including porcelain-berry, akebia, bittersweet, Japanese
honeysuckle, English ivy and Japanese or Chinese wisteria.
green wall concept
has taken root and is here to stay. In a future column, master
gardeners will discuss living walls, which are modular vertical
structures that contain the entire root system of the plants
growing upon them. The best local example is at One PNC Plaza,
Downtown. The various textures and colored foliage of plants
create the PNC logo. Living walls are also being installed in
interior spaces as art installations.
Workers perform maintenance on a living wall
that has since been removed
Other examples of vegetated surfaces include
and planted retaining walls. These innovative techniques have
environmental benefits, including erosion control and stormwater
Biltmore Estate Gardens
Vines for a Shady Trellis
Wisterias that won't flower