Beware of vines that could damage your house! (Plantman Article)

The Plant Man column for publication week of 02/20/05 - 02/26/05 (730 words) ###
The Plant Man by Steve Jones www.landsteward.org
Beware of vines that could damage your house!
It's question time again. With spring just around the corner, many readers are sending me questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping. If you e-mail a question or comment to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org I'll respond personally and some questions will be included in future columns.
QUESTION: "I need a very fast growing vine, shrub, or ivy to cover the outside wall of our house. It looks bad and it stands about 10-15 feet tall. Any suggestions?" – Lance Tanner
ANSWER: Many of the faster growing vines can cause permanent structural damage to a house. My recommendation, if you do decide to use a vine, is to put up a trellis or wiring for the vine to attach itself to as this will help to prevent damage to your home's exterior. I would stay away from Boston Ivy and Wisteria especially for that reason. Consider English Ivy or Clematis.
If you were to put a ready made trellis over the exposed area of your house, it would automatically improve the looks and then you could use a deciduous vine like the Clematis or even climbing roses. Then you might even get by with having shrubs growing to hide the lower portion of your house with the trellis covering the upper portion. For year round coverage, you will need evergreen shrubs. You should visit your local garden center for their selection of evergreen shrubs and vines or do an online search.
QUESTION: "I regularly read your column and I am always looking for ideas and info I can use in my gardening. Today I have two questions: I have ordered two different kinds of apple trees: two Honey Crisp and two Fireside apple trees. My first question is: How far apart do the trees have to be from each other and how far apart do the Honey Crisps have to be from the Firesides? Would they cross pollinate?
"Actually I have a third question: is it okay to plant them in the same vicinity as butter nut trees? I don't have a lot of planting space with a lot of sun, so I would like to plant all four trees in the same general area, and I already have butternut trees in that area. I could move the butternut trees, as they are not very big yet. Thank you for your help; and thank you for writing the ‘Plant Man' articles in the paper." – Vi Leff
ANSWER: The simple answer is that you can plant all the apple trees at a distance of about 20 feet from each other, assuming they are "standard" trees. (Dwarf varieties can be planted closer together.) There is no reason to separate the Honey Crisps from the Firesides, and if they are within about 60 feet of each other, there's a possibility that they'll cross-pollinate.
As for the butternut, I suggest you place it off by itself as they sometimes do not cohabit well with other trees.
QUESTION: "I just read a recent column of yours and I'm interested in taking a soil sample in my yard/garden. Although my turfgrass is healthy, a few of my trees & shrubs (river birch, burning bush, phlox, & dwarf lilac) exhibit poor or "off" color compared to similar plants around town. I'm good about watering (but not over-watering) and fertilizing. Can you help educate me as to the proper steps in taking a (multiple, if needed) soil sample and where to send it?" – Mark Adams
ANSWER: It is quite easy to take any soil sample yourself and determine the pH of your soil with even a small kit that can be found online. If you're having trouble locating one, send me an e-mail at snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org For a more extensive type of sample you can contact your local soil and water conservation district office. To find the closest one to you go to this link: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/ Under normal conditions the trees you mentioned will do well under a neutral pH of around 7.0, give or take. My advice would be to try the easy way first and then if you need more information go to the conservation district office.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org
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from snipped-for-privacy@greenwoodnursery.com (Earl) contains these words:

Wisteria can only attach itself to wires or a trellis, it won't adhere direct to solid walls, therefore it can't "damage your home's exterior" or "cause permanent structural damage".
>Consider English Ivy or Clematis.
English ivy, unlike wisteria, does attach itself direct to walls, and has the potential to "damage your home's exterior". Given a trellis against a wall, it would attach to the wall.
Your advice is ignorant garbage.
Janet
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I think Earl had it right. A wisteria on Queen Ann Hill in Seattle lifted a Victorian mansion off its foundation. The wisteria was itself close to a century old before it did this, but it did it. The structural damage was extreme & cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair, on a house worth millions.
Wisteria most certainly do attach themselves to shingled walls or siding. My wisteria is still quite young & has already ripped off a dozen shingles from the garage. I cut out branches that work their way under shingles, but can't keep ahead of it. I'm not fond of those whitewashed shingles so I let the wisteria do its dirty deed & I don't much complain.
Your proviso "solid" wall would be correct but most walls will have a few features like window frames, or encased wiring, or downspouts, besides decks &amp railings sticking out from a wall, all of which wisteria would love to rip through if allowed to grow wild. If the wall is not solid, but made or real or aluminum siding, Wisteria can pry that loose not by rooting but by inserting parts of young branchings into every opening, overlap, or crack, then fattening & extending. Wisteria roots can also cause foundation damage, though no more so than any other gigantic vine or tree planted right up against a foundation.
Many other vines such as climbing hydrangea adhere to & discolor walls but do them no injury if its a solid wall, but any kind of composit wall with siding or shingles will get parts of the wall pried off when vines work their way into every access point or crack. Many clinging vines such as boston ivy are supposed to be harmless to properly made & sealed & uncracked brick or masonry walls, but the same vines cause damage to woodframe houses if only by holding moisture forever against the house, causing wood to rot, & hiding the presence of carpenter ants or fungus, besides lifting siding.
-paghat the ratgirl
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Bummer. I have a house on a slope, which means that the basement has a walkout, and the ground floor is about 8 feet above the ground in the backyard. There is a deck off the first floor in the back that is thus up fairly high, with a large area of ground shaded and covered by it. I was planning on enclosing it, as a place to store my lawnmower and such, with a wood lattice and planting maypops and clematis.
Is this a bad idea?
billo
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Oliver) wrote:

I can't imagine maypops & (deciduous) clematis ever being a problem, though they may not be compatible vines given that maypops/passion vines don't want to be watered, & clematis do.
-paggers
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I don't think that will be a problem -- one side of the house is dry and the other is wet. I figured I'd let them fight it out.
billo
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from snipped-for-privacy@netscape.net (paghat) contains these words:

Clematis montana might; it can get immensely heavy and the weight is all carried on the structure it's climbing. The expansion of its trunks/arms in small spaces can cause trouble. I had a lovely one (Elizabeth) on the front of our stone-built house, but one day John opened a cupboard door in the bedroom to find the clematis reaching out to grab him. 30 ft high, it had sneaked in through a tiny slit between the roof slates, then through the roof boards beneath the slates. Then it crossed a large attic, and came through a hairline crack in a wall into the back of the cupboard.
He reckoned it was lucky he caught it before it got out through the cupboard door, and strangled us in bed :-)
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On Thu, 17 Feb 2005 12:37:35 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@netscape.net (paghat) opined:

I thought that too, till last summer I made the decision of not watering the garden out back at all. Not a drop. The C. terniflora did better than ever and flowered for over two months, much to my surprise. I don't know if other clematis would withstand this, but these were in blazing full sun all summer in south central TX and performed very well. Then again, they do have excellent soil and plenty of mulch and shaded roots.
v
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My opinion is creeping fig and dutchmans pipe are twop good vines.........Dutchmans pipe will die back in fall, creeping fig may or may not depending on the area, but my CF does not seem to get up and into tiny crevices etc like Ivy and others do.....and its not really all that fast of a grower so keeping it under check is not hard........
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from snipped-for-privacy@netscape.net (paghat) contains these words:

The same is true of some clematis and English Ivy, which he cites as "safe"climbers. Both can expand a tiny tendril into a trunk as thick as my wrist in a few years. I used to live in a 400 year old manor house covered in English ivy, whose trunks and branches were as thick as my leg.
Janet
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That's not true, Janet, wisteria can severely damage buildings, I've seen a garage pulled to one side and collapsed due to the weight.
Another example is really pretty funny....a woman bought an older home that had a gorgeous wall of wisteria (the house was brick ended). In and upstairs bedroom were a set of drawers built into the eaves. They couldn't for the life of them pull the drawers open. Finally they had a carpenter dismantle the drawers to see what was wrong....the wisteria's hold-fasts had hold of the drawer backs! The vine had invaded the side of the house between the studs, anywhere it could get a grip.
You should never allow wisteria to grow directly on a building.
--
Ann, gardening in Zone 6a
South of Boston, Massachusetts
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expounded:

another sneaky and distructive vine is Trumpet vine, or Campsis bignoniaceae. I have the two vines that Mary Emma had me dig up years ago in her lower yard, planted one next to the light pole at the opening of my side yard where it flourishes way too much. Between the need to get on a ladder to clip the seed pods before they ripen and split open to let fly all their children seeds on wings of gossamer fuzz like milk weed, or their roots popping leather covered steel shoots that appear feet from the parent vine in my raised western bed, the love of the blossoms and food for the hummers is greatly decreased by all the problems I'm experiencing with this gift.
There is one vine that sprouted from seed years ago under the nook mini deck (I call it a boardwalk as it's so narrow) that forced it's way thru the planks cracks to attach to my outside fireplace bricks. After seeing how it bulked up like it was on steroids in just two years, I pulled it off the bricks, whacked the vine and carefully crawled under the walkway and whacked the trunk. It returns like a bad B grade sci-fi movie every year. I'll have to dose it will Round-up this spring once it warms up and hope the chemical salts won't harm the many residents of my NSSG (not so secret garden) which lie just a few feet from this sneaky inhabitant.
There is yet another vine that I had lifted of this digging that I had originally planted next to the half dead maple tree that I've long ago removed, and when I lifted the roots of this other specimen and for the time being, just sat it against the daughter seedling Pawlonia tree that had sprung up near the outbuilding several yards on the opposite side where the mother tree is, I forgot about it and never planted it.
It didn't matter. It felt or tasted the soil beneath it's roots/feet and pulled itself into the ground where it was and now grows next to a fatter Pawlonia daughter. I will regret it later on when it thrives like it's sibling on the opposite side of the property. I know while I'm not paying attention to it there on the eastern side of the property, it's seed pods have probably launched a take over of the tangled and almost impassible eastern side of my lower woods where poison ivy, poison oak, cedar trees, honey locust trees and privet, privet, privet, as well as wild roses and some blackberry canes reside. (I need a bobcat to tear into that eastern end......................)
I've even seen what the beautiful Akibia vine can do, and I adore it! There aren't a lot of vines that don't do some harm that are perennial if given the chance over time.
And lets hope we don't get into a pissing contest over this subject. It's just good garden banter back and forth we've got going here. I'm actually enjoying seeing the remarks and comments and mild disagreements and agreements going on here. Makes me feel like the old newsgroup is back.......but then, that's just me. <gbseg> The only one not thrown out a comment so far is Tomkanpa and Zhan......:)
madgardener, up on the ridge, back in Faerie Holler, overlooking English Mountain in Eastern Tennessee, zone 7, Sunset zone 36 where I have Campsis, Jackmanii and a few other slowly growing clematis vines, and apparently my climbing Hydrangea has chosen the mother Pawlonia tree as it's support still in the pot, unless I tear it off now and plant it against a Jack pine in my woods this spring...........
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And I keep pulling out virginia creeper, it sure does climb the house fast! Plus, I've got lots of greenbriar all over the yard - I keep cutting it down and it keeps coming back. And besides the fact that the early tips are good in salads, they have got to go! They are all over my tangerine tree, which is also getting covered with cape coral vine and passionflower vines. The tree is too close to the fence where these grow and oh, how I hate to cut them, but I will tomorrow. I never know where the beach sunflowers are going to show up! I originally planted them neatly in the front yard with the sea grapes, now they are everywhere! Just like my thumbergia. And that is the February report from down south in Palmetto, Florida. Oh, yeah, the mangoes and orange trees are blooming, ahhhh, heavenly.
--
gloria - only the iguanas know for sure



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A lot of good advice here, as well as some healthy disputes, for us all to learn from.
I found a nice web page with info and images of a number of vines, including the Japanese wisteria and Chinese wisteria: http://www.sheridangardens.com/theplants_vines.htm . Peace.
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Talk about weeds: www.ergonica.com/grooming.htm
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opined:

One could say so is yours. I've seen wisteria remove large hunks of siding on homes, as well as pop shingles off roof's and literally grow into the house or attic as they push their way through anything in front of their path. Wisteria is an extremely invasive vine and needs to be maintained every year with a major pruning after it flowers. It's not something I'd ever plant anywhere near or on my house.
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Your advice is ignorant garbage.
Jesus, Janet! Who pissed on your Cheerios?
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anyone who pisses?
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No doubt you're expert in junkfood and golden showers.
Janet.
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