How Do Climbing Vines Actually Climb?

How Do Climbing Vines Actually Climb?

How Do Climbing Vines Actually Climb?

So how do climbing vines actually climb?  Good question.  And a good thing that my friend, Bob, is here to help me answer it.  Today, Bob discovers that not all garden variety ornamental climbing vines are created equal.  Turns out that different kinds of vines make different kinds of climbs.  Understand those differences, and you’ll be able to give your own ambitious vines the ample – and proper – support they’ll need in order to achieve their lofty goals.  Explain those differences to a friend in need, and you just may reach some new heights of your own.

I’m forever astounded by nature’s power to transfix, to soothe…   

It’s Thursday afternoon, late, when my meathead buddy shows up at my house.  Let’s call him “Bob.”  If you’re a regular here, then it’s very possible that you’ve met Bob before.  You’ll know him, if not by name, then certainly by deed.  Bob’s quick to form opinions (and, as you’ll soon see, even quicker to take action.)  Bob is here this particular late afternoon seeking beer.  And solace.

Bob informs me, once he’s inside and provided refreshment, that “The bitch is gonna go after my boat.”  Said bitch is his soon-to-be ex-wife.  “I’m already giving her the damn house.  What the hell?”

After a lengthy courtship of three days, the two lovebirds were married on a Friday in Vegas.  (Which was a good place to proceed with the nuptials, since they’d first met Tuesday afternoon that very same week in the bar at the Bellagio.)

Bob is the bitch’s senior by just over a quarter of a century.

On this particular Thursday, the bitch and Bob’s marriage is approximately six months old.  It was at this blessed union’s four-month point that Bob’s bride informed him that she would be leaving him for a man 10 years her junior.  And that she wanted the house.  Bob relays to me the fact that just this morning, her invective laden text to him divulged her intent to also angle the old Sea Ray from his possession.

(There’s simply not enough time between gin and tonics to draft a pre-nup.)

So Bob’s in my living room pulling on his second beer.  He knows that his house is a goner, and that his boat probably is too.  Bob, to say the least, is dispirited.  And bitter.  We decide to head out back, to the garden, to discuss his limited options and hopefully, gradually, get his mind off of his woes. 

We each take a seat on the deck, surrounded by the garden’s denizens.  And it is here, among the green plant life (which knows nothing of marital asset division or divorce statutes) that Bob, my sad, pathetic, bitter, meatheaded chum, seemingly begins to relax.  Right before my eyes, he appears to grow more comfortable, by degrees.  The tranquility of the garden (and the beer) is evidently working its calming magic on Bob.  Now, gazing benignly at the big arbor and trellis structure I’d built the previous year, he works his way through his third bottle of Bud in ostensibly contented fashion.  It’s not until I return with a fourth beer for Bob that I notice a further change in his demeanor.  He’s now staring somewhat intently at the stuff that’s growing beneath my arbor and making its way up the trellis.

He notes that there are indeed vines growing up the trellis, and observes them with what I interpret as at least moderate amazement (it’s tough to ascertain the exact degree – he has, after all, consumed nearly 48 ounces of beer in a little over 15 minutes).  Then Bob, in surprisingly steady fashion, rises from his chair and engages in a broader scan of his surroundings.  Across the garden from the arbor and trellis, to the west, is a modest wrought iron garden arch.  It’s covered in the branches, stems, leaves, and flowers of two clematis vines.  His eyes, which now appear completely devoid of the bleariness which his Budweiser consumption was beginning to bestow upon them, travel the length of the clematis vines, from the ground to the top of the arch.  Bob’s erstwhile bitterness is now miles away.  He is both relaxed and engaged.  The vines of my garden – those amazing plants which spend their lives clambering up vertical surfaces – have commanded his attention and have piqued his interest.  And it’s at this point that Bob poses an astute question.  It’s a question that will, in fact, go on to become the title of this particular article.

Bob asks: "How do those climbing vines actually climb?"

How do climbing vines actually climb?  I’m pleased with Bob’s question (and more than a little surprised by his ability to elucidate it in cogent fashion).  I’m encouraged by his curiosity and relieved that he’s been distracted, at least temporarily, from the sad reality that, among other things, his beloved boat will no doubt soon be captained by the bitch’s barely-post-pubescent suitor.  And while the content of Bob’s question carries considerable heft, it doesn’t throw me in the least.  As he excuses himself and heads into the house to use the restroom, I think back to an article I’d previously written in which this topic was at some length discussed, and the question at least partially answered.  I consider the field observations I’d made, here in my own garden.  I remember info I’d gleaned from various reputable sources.  When Bob returns, I’ll be ready to answer him.

Bob does return, equipped with two more bottles of Bud.  Both for him.  To save time, he says.  “So what about those, vines?  How do they climb up that trellis?”  He’s actually truly interested.

I explain that his question is a loaded one.  I tap my collected knowledge of climbing vines, and work on framing an answer.  We settle into our chairs and take advantage of our proximity to the vines and the views it affords.  Bob quickly kills off one of the bottles of Bud, and I begin to explain to him, in fairly detailed fashion, how climbing vines do in fact climb.  “There are different kinds of vines.  Not all climb up stuff the same way…  ” 

What follows is the expository version of our conversation – a written, info-only synopsis relaying the salient facts of this minor garden phenomenon.

Different Kinds of Climbs for Different Kinds of Vines

How do climbing vines actually climb?  There’s more than one answer because there’s more than one way for vines to climb.  The particular method that any ornamental climbing vine employs to attach to and scale a vertical surface is determined by its anatomy and physiology.  For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll break climbing vines down into five major groups: Twining stem climbers, grasping leaf stem climbers, aerial root climbers, grasping tendril climbers, and adhesive pad climbers.  I currently grow three of these types of climber in my garden, and although I’ve got some hands-on experience with the two types I don’t currently grow, I’ll primarily focus on my three.  Below, I’ll explain a bit about each type of climber and the nature of its particular climbing mechanism, and I’ll name one or two well-known examples of each one.  And in the case of the three types growing in my own garden, I’ll also offer suggestions for the best kind of vertical structure to provide each one, and let you in on some simple techniques which I use to help make their climbs as easy and successful as possible.  Finally, I’ll mention a type of plant that is known as a climber, but isn’t a true clinger.

1) Twining Stem Climbers

These guys climb exactly as their name suggests: they twine their main stems through and around the individual members of a climbing structure, or the branches and stems of neighboring plants, in order to climb.  It’s the main stem itself that makes contact with a suitable section or component of a vertical structure and physically twines itself through and/or around that particular section or component.  The biological mechanism that enables vines from this, and three of the other climbing groups to detect and secure themselves to suitable verticle structures and structural components is known as a thigmotropism.  The vine’s stem “feels” the structure and twines its main stems through and around it in response to this sensory stimulus.

Examples of twining stem climbers.  Some well-known examples of ornamental twining stem climbers are honeysuckle, morning glory, moonflower, and jasmine.  Each of these vines makes its respective climb by “feeling” for, then twining its stems around and through the components of vertical structures or the branches and stems of neighboring plants.

Twining stem climbers in my garden.  I’ve got two goldflame honeysuckle vines in my garden.  How does each of these climbing vines make its climb?  Exactly as described above.  My honeysuckle vines are planted at the foot of a tall wooden trellis structure of treated 2×4 framing members and treated wood lattice panels.  The lattice material provides the perfect climbing medium for the vines.  Their twining main stems loop through the individual slats of the lattice in “over-under” fashion.  Much like Bob’s future-ex-bride and her uncanny ability to seek out and burn through his money and property, the honeysuckle vines’ thigmotropic sensory responses allow them to seek out the slats and gaps of the lattice panels and move through them quickly.  Poor Bob.  Jesus.

The thigmotropic main stems of my goldflame honeysuckle vines twine their way over and under the wooden slat members of their trellis. Those stems sense the presence of the slats and mechanically weave themselves through them, working their way toward the top of the structure.
How Do Climbing Vines Actually Climb?
My honeysuckle vines are only a year old. Within the next few years, their density will visually obliterate the trellis structure.

The best climbing structures for twining stem climbers.  I consider the lattice component of my garden’s trellis structure to be the ideal matrix for twining stem climbing vines.  Its open grid structure allows for natural twining and weaving of the vines’ stems as they grow upward.  Any type of structure that provides an open framework or grid which allows the twining action of the main stems of this group of climbing vines is ideal.  The branches and stems of adjacent plants also provide a tempting climbing surface for these vines.  I routinely need to remove my honeysuckle vines’ stems from amidst the branches of nearby bushes, and train them onto the lattice.

Training and assisting twining stem climbers.  Understanding how these particular climbing vines actually climb is critical in training them up an intended structure and providing them with the initial assistance they’ll need to set the tone of their climbs.  Since twining stem climbers readily weave their main stems through open grid structures, a simple way to get a newly planted individual moving in the right direction is to manually weave its stems into and through the framework of the intended climbing structure.  Stems located toward the front of the plant and further away from the structure can either be pruned back, or “lassoed” with green twine: tie one end of a length of twine to the errant stem just below a pair of leaf stems, and tie the other end to the structure.  Make sure that the length of twine is fairly taut.  This will direct the stem toward the structure.  Once there, the stem’s thigmotropic nature will initiate its twining and weaving through the components of the trellis.  Please click here to read more about my “Lasso” Technique for training thigmotropic climbing vines.

How Do Climbing Vines Actually Climb?
When encouraging my honeysuckle vines to climb my trellis structure, I manually wove many of their stems though the open gridwork of slats. In some cases, where the stems were growing from the front of the plant and away from the trellis, I used twine to implement my "Lasso" Technique. The use of both of these techniques is evident in this photo.

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Espoma Organic Plant-tone

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One of my own bags of Espoma Organic Plant-tone. When the plants in my garden are hungry, this is what the majority of them are fed. It's an exceptional fertilizer.

At this time, I perform a quick visual check-in with Bob.  To make sure he’s still with me.  Any concern I may have regarding this matter is immediately dispelled.  Bob is sitting, almost primly, with his feet together and his hands in his lap.  Nestled tenderly in the cradle of those big hands is an open beer bottle.  Bob’s eyes move purposefully away from the honeysuckle vines and meet my own.  His mouth is slightly agape.  I know Bob well.  He is transfixed.  I return to my discussion of climbing vines and their biomechanical tendencies.

2) Grasping Leaf Stem Climbers

How do these thigmotropic climbing vines clamber up vertical structures?  Unlike twining stem climbers, they use only their leaf stems, or petioles, to curl around and grasp thinner components of arches, trellises, and other vertical supports.  The leaves and leaf stems of these vines sense any contact with a grabbable structure and quickly and tightly encircle it.  The maximum grabbable diameter of a supporting structural component is limited by the length of the plant’s leaf stems.  Typically, this type of climber is limited to grasping structures of relatively small diameter.

Examples of grasping leaf stem climbers.  Two really well-known examples of this type of climbing vine are clematis and nasturtium.  The blooms and foliage of both vines are beautiful, but only clematis is hardy in my zone 5B/6A garden.

Grasping leaf stem climbers in my garden.  It’s clematis all the way.  I’ve got an H.F. Young and a Jackmanii growing up either side of a wrought iron (actually black painted steel) garden arch which I anchored into the ground with concrete footings.  The vines smother their respective sides of the arch as they make their way to the top, and overlap each other in a profusion of blooms and foliage.

How Do Climbing Vines Actually Climb?
Clematis 'H.F. Young' in my garden.
How Do Climbing Vines Actually Climb?
Clematis 'Jackmanii' in my garden.

The best climbing structures for grasping leaf stem climbers.  Since these vines use only their leaf stems as a method of grasping and encircling vertical structure components, you’ll need to pay attention to the length of those leaf stems, and provide your vines with a vertical structure comprised of appropriately slender components.  If the structure offers elements of excessive diameter, the comparatively short leaf stems of the vines will be unable to grasp and encircle them, and the vines will not be able to make the climb.  In the case of clematis vines, the maximum diameter of a climbing structure’s elements should be no more than 1/2″ and usually much less.  Although Clematis Pruning Group 3 vines appear to have slightly longer leaf stems than those of Groups 1 and 2, as a genus, clematis leaf stems need slender structures to grab in order to climb successfully.  Grasping leaf stem climbers need structures like thin-gauge decorative steel garden arches, chain link fences, or even the slender branches of adjacent bushes and plants to make their climbs.

Training and assisting grasping leaf stem climbers.  If you’ve chosen a vertical structure for your  leaf stem climbers with appropriately slender components, you won’t need to do much more than basically point your vines in the right direction.  For example, by simply leaning a clematis vines main stems against a chain link fence, you will have triggered the vine’s thigmotropic mechanisms.  Its leaves and leaf stems will sense contact with the fence’s slender structural make-up and will immediately begin to grasp and encircle it in order to gain purchase for its inevitable climb.  Providing this type of climber with the appropriate structure is basically all you’ll really need to do.  Obviously, pruning for the benefit of the vine’s shape and well-being is also appropriate.

However…   if you’re a selfish s.o.b. like me, and you sacrifice the well-being of your climbing vines in favor of your personal design predilections, some intervening measures will need to be taken.  In my article, “How to Train Clematis Vines to Climb: An Easy Hack,” I readily admit my selfishness and explain that the cool-looking garden arch I purchased specifically for clematis vine use was NOT the absolute best choice for clematis vine use.  And I outline a really useful strategy employing a few simple and ingenious techniques that have simplified my own vines’ respective ascents of this structure.  The article will show you everything you need to do in order to get your clematis vines (or nasturtium and other leaf stem climbers) right up otherwise less-than-ideal vertical surfaces.  I really recommend checking it out.  But for the sake of cohesiveness, I’ll paraphrase right here and quickly explain these helpful techniques:  First, you’ll use twine and the occasional twist tie to implement my techniques.  Use the twist ties to gently support the non-twining main stems of these vines by tying them to larger diameter vertical members.  Use the twine to employ the above-mentioned Lasso Technique and also the Matrix Technique.  The Lasso Technique works by tying, in fairly taut fashion, one end of a length of twine to a main stem of your climber (immediately below two protruding leaf stems) and the other end to a graspable element of the vertical structure.  This will guide the stem to something that the leaf stems can encircle, and will allow the stem to begin its climb.  The Matrix technique involves basically creating an open framework, or matrix, of twine for the climber’s leaf stems to grab.  To employ the Matrix Tehnique, just tie lengths of twine between thicker, un-grabbable vertical elements to create this “climbing matrix” for your vine.  Again, please feel free to click the above link to the article for a detailed explanation of these techniques with accompanying instructions and photos.

How Do Climbing Vines Actually Climb?
The photo on the upper left shows the use of a twist tie to keep a clematis vine's main stem in contact with a thicker element of the vertical structure. The photo on the upper right shows the Matrix Technique in use. The bottom two photos show the use of the Lasso Technique.

Gardener’s Blue Ribbon Sturdy Twists are perfect for use in your clematis training regimen.  They’re coated in green plastic, and I buy them in both 100′ and 164′ rolls.  Plus, each roll comes with a cutter built right into the dispenser.  Super convenient.  Click the #advertisement link to order them here, from Amazon.

Gardener’s Blue Ribbon Sturdy Twists 164′ Roll

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One of my numerous rolls of Gardener's Blue Ribbon Sturdy Twists. I buy them in both 100' and 164' rolls, and I use them in a number of applications. They're awesome in climbing vine training methodologies.

This 328′ long roll of Shintop Heavy Duty Green Garden Twine is made from hemp and is convenient to use, strong, and easy to cut with scissors or a knife.  Its green color blends in beautifully with my clematis vines’ foliage.  Order it here, from Amazon, by clicking the #advertisement link.

Shintop Heavy Duty Green Garden Twine 328′ Roll

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One of my own rolls of Shintop Heavy Duty Green Garden Twine. Need an assist for your climbing vines? Man, this here's the stuff.

3) Aerial Root Climbers

Aerial root climbers utilize roots (aerial, or adventitious roots) growing along sections of their stems, aboveground, to attach and anchor themselves to vertical surfaces.  These roots do not originate from subterranean root tissue.  In the case of the aerial root climbers we’re discussing here, they arise from nodes and internodes along sections of each vine’s aerial stems.  The biological mechanism by which these roots sprout and seek a climbing surface is known as a phototropism, which is defined as a particular plant’s growth or movement in response to light.  In the case of these vines, that mechanism is further specified as a negative phototropism, or growth or movement away from light.  The aerial roots of these vines, in order to avoid sunlight, emerge from the side of the stem opposite the sunlight and “reach” toward any vertical surface on this particular “shady” side of the stem.  These aerial roots can cause damage to the vertical surfaces to which they anchor themselves.  Like subterranean roots, these roots will “dig in” to the surface to which they’ve attached and anchored.  In doing so, they can ruin structures like houses with wooden siding, and even brick walls (by compromising the mortar joints between the bricks).  When growing climbing vines from this group, it’s best to provide them with “their own” structures, like trellises or arbors.  (They can anchor themselves to these structures without causing damage to houses, or other buildings.)  The tenacity and aggressiveness of aerial root climbers can be alarming.  Basically, these vines attach themselves to a given surface, and dig in until they get what they want.  (Comparisons to the actions of my friend Bob’s current bride are unavoidable.)

Examples of aerial root climbers.  Two popular examples of perennial aerial root climbers are climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris) and trumpet vine (Campsis radicans and Campsis grandiflora).  Both are remarkably hardy, and explosive climbers.  It’s not uncommon for climbing hydrangeas to reach 50 feet or more in height.  Due to its extremely tenacious aerial roots, the trumpet vine can become extremely assertive, and is often considered invasive.

Aerial root climbers in my garden.  I’ve got four climbing hydrangeas in my garden.  Three were grown from bareroot last year and bedded in the spring of this year, and the fourth was a 2nd year potted plant when I bedded it mid spring this year.  They’ve all been planted at the foot of my long trellis structure, where they will be able to ultimately grow out onto the canopy of my massive heavy timber arbor.  The trellis and arbor system will be able to provide these robust vines with a support structure that’s all their own.  By attaching to and covering the trellis and arbor, they will not compromise the surface of the wood siding on my house.

One of my garden's climbing hydrangea vines.
How Do Climbing Vines Actually Climb?
In these four photos, the climbing hydrangea's aerial root structures are clearly visible. The sprouting and growth of these roots away from the light and toward the wooden surface of the trellis behind the vine's stems is an example of negative phototropism. Also note from these photos that the wooden surface of the trellis is porous. It allows these roots to attach and dig in.

The best climbing structures for aerial root climbers.  For me, this is a no-brainer: anything that keeps them off of the side of my house is perfect.  Seriously, I have provided a wooden arbor and trellis system specifically for my aerial root climbers.  This is an appropriate surface for two reasons.  The first, I’ve already mentioned: it will keep them from potentially damaging the siding on my house.  The second reason is that the rough wooden surface of this structure provides ample porosity for the successful attachment and anchoring of the aerial roots.  Although the vertical structure of my trellis is latticed, this open gridwork is unnecessary for successful climbing by aerial root vines.  A solid vertical sheet of plywood would offer at least the same amount of traction for these guys.  I personally like the lattice structure because it’s not only more attractive than a blank vertical expanse of plywood, its open gridwork allows me to manually “weave” the stems of these young plants into the trellis structure so that they’re held in close proximity to the wooden surface.  In this way, the emerging aerial stems can attach easily.

Training and assisting aerial root climbers.  I’ve already mentioned “weaving” the growing stems of my climbing hydrangeas into the gridwork of the vertical lattice of my trellis structure.  This is done only as a means of keeping the stems in place up against the wooden slats of the lattice so that the aerial roots will sprout and attach to them.  (Remember, aerial root climbers like my climbing hydrangeas do not twine their stems around and through vertical structures to grow.  They attach and climb using only their aerial roots.)  I also sometimes use twine to both guide my climbing hydrangeas’ stems toward the lattice material, and to hold them against it until the emerging aerial roots emerge and take hold.

My climbing hydrangeas are typical aerial root climbers. Pictured here are a couple of techniques I use to encourage this plant to climb the trellis behind it. The photo on the left shows one particular stem being held up against the wooden slat with twine until its aerial roots are able to attach and anchor it. The photo on the right shows some of the stems "woven" through the slats of the lattice. These plants do not use a twining stem growth habit to climb. I've merely "woven" the stems in this fashion in order to hold them against the wooden slats until the aerial roots can take over.
How Do Climbing Vines Actually Climb?
Photo 1 above shows the twining stem mechanism used by my honeysuckle vines to climb. Photo 2 shows the aerial root climbing mechanism of my climbing hydrangeas. Photos 3 and 4 show the grasping leaf stem climbs of my clematis vines.

At this point in Bob’s visit, the September afternoon shadows are beginning to lengthen.  To his credit, Bob has remained focused throughout my oration and, despite several trips to retrieve additional bottles of Budweiser (two bottles per trip has been the pattern thus far) for his consumption here in the garden, he has evidently been engrossed in the subject matter at hand.  Now, however, I’m noticing a return of the earlier bleariness to his eyes.  I’ve only got two more types of climbing vines to tell him about (and one that’s really not a true “climber” per se).  I don’t grow these vines in my garden, so I’ll be brief in my discussion.  This is probably for the best, as Bob’s attention is just now showing the early signs of drifting.  The placid expression on his face belies the eagerness with which he slurps down the precious contents of the beer bottle he’s clutching.  He reminds me of a nursing baby dolphin.  I’m now sure that Bob will not be driving home tonight.  I proceed with the conclusion of my discussion.

4) Grasping Tendril Climbers

These vines climb in pretty much the same way as grasping leaf stem climbers.  The main difference between these two types of vine is subtle and anatomical.  Instead of grasping climbing structures with leaf stems, they use leafless tendrils to do their bidding.  Impelled by a thigmotropic imperative, exactly like grasping leaf stem vines, these guys sense a grabbable structure and wrap leafless tendrils, which sprout from nodes on a main stem, tightly around it.  Because there are no leaves on these tendrils, their prehensile lengths tend to be greater than the lengths of the leaf stems on grasping leaf stem climbers.  Grasping tendril climbers are generally capable of attaching to vertical structural components of greater diameter than are grasping leaf stem vines.  An excellent example of a grasping tendril climber is a grape vine.

5) Adhesive Pad Climbers  These climbers adhere to vertical surfaces through the use of a particular structure which is essentially a tendril, or tendrils, tipped with adhesive pads.  In true thigmotropic fashion, these plants detect and cling to vertical surfaces by virtue of the adhesive pads at the tips of their questing tendrils.  There is a prominent example of this type of climber existing in the forest of trees on my property.  The Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), though not officially an invasive plant in my area, is a pretty damned invasive plant.  These guys literally stick to virtually any vertical surface I’ve encountered on my land: wooden privacy fences, wooden siding on my shed, trunks of nearby trees, even unused plastic storage bins.  It’s a really pretty vine, but it literally grows EVERYWHERE.  Adhesive pad climbers have evolved in extremely successful fashion.  There are very few surfaces that these vines are incapable of adhering to and scaling.

Climbing Roses: Neither Fish Nor Fowl

The last of the climbing vines I’ll be discussing is not really a “climber” in the truest sense of the word, and, in my opinion, is really more of an exceptionally gangly (and exceptionally beautiful) bush than it is a vine.  I have no personal experience growing these incredible beauties, but my folks do.  I can remember watching, as a kid, my Mom and Dad successfully growing the most stunning climbing roses.  I also remember that these beauties demanded a bit of effort from my folks.  For one thing, climbing roses apparently do not have any true clinging or grasping mechanism at their disposal.  I can remember my Dad showing me that the thorns on a climbing rose cane could effectively “hook” onto a vertical structure, but really not with any permanence.  To keep climbing roses “climbing” up a vertical structure, they had to be tied.  In this way, they differ distinctly from the first five types of true climbing vine discussed here.  In the past, I’ve recommended some really good climbing rose reads.  Here’s a link to another one that offers some great advice on training climbing roses up a vertical structure.

As I conclude my discussion of climbing vines with Bob, I am aware of the fact that the early evening shadows have reached nearly all the way into nightfall.  Bob, comfortable in his chair, is now dozing.  Empty beer bottles populate the territory of the deck abutting his sleeping form to both the left and right.  Gleaming dully in the twilight, they stand in grim testament to the breadth and depth of his woe.  (Some of the later additions to this assembly lay on their sides in grim testament.)  I don’t want to count them.

Before I wake Bob, I reflect on the fact that, at least for awhile, here in my garden, my troubled friend found some peace.  He discovered something beautiful and curious this afternoon, and for at least awhile, his appreciation and interest displaced his sadness.  I’m glad that the plants which populate my garden – beings incapable of malice or duplicity, but certainly far from insensate – were able to attract his attention and direct his thoughts from their earlier abyssal course.  I’m grateful to these beings.

While Bob continues his doze on the deck, I go inside to prep the guest bedroom.  And as I go through the motions of getting Bob’s accommodations in order, I’m suddenly struck by an exquisite longing for our communion in the garden this afternoon – mine, Bob’s, and the plants’.  It was a piece of time I will never forget.  I don’t think about the beer that Bob drank, and I don’t think about the corruption visited upon him as a result of his impetuous nature.  I don’t think about the fact that I got to talk about cool plants and the even cooler things that they’re capable of doing.  I don’t think about anything but the collegiality among those of us in the garden on this particular afternoon: two men, and the plants silently growing there.  I don’t think about anything but an afternoon among friends.

“Come on, Bob.  Let’s get you to bed.”

Cheers, and Happy Gardening!

John G. Stamos (2022)

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12 thoughts on “How Do Climbing Vines Actually Climb?”

  1. Wow John what a superbly written and mesmerizing story, both Bob’s and about the vines. As you were describing the first climber, I couldn’t help but build a connection between the machinations of the vine and the soon to be ex-wife, and then you said it.
    I am in awe of how you braided together poor impetuous Bob’s story and your deep knowledge of climbers in the garden, much like the intertwining of the vines.
    I hope Bob got some rest that night, and finds some peace soon.

    1. Thank you so much for those incredibly kind words, Alegria, and for your incredibly kind interest, of course. I suspect that there isn’t much that escapes your keen perception – I’m not surprised that you anticipated my comparison by drawing your own. Well done, Alegria! I’ll pass along your kind thoughts to my friend. I know he’ll certainly be appreciative. Thanks once again, Alegria!

  2. Great question Bob! Lots of good information that shows us just how amazing nature is. Your in depth knowledge really pays off when I see how beautiful your garden is. It will not be too long until we can’t see your trellis anymore.

    1. Thank you, Kevin. I’m glad you got an opportunity to read the piece and that you were able to get something out of it. As always, your kind thoughts and interest are truly appreciated. Thanks again!

    1. Thank you so much, Rick. I’m so glad that you enjoy reading my pieces here. And that particular afternoon was truly memorable. It’s wonderful when someone can forget his or her troubles for awhile and enjoy something beautiful and interesting. Thanks again, Rick!

  3. Wonderful John,so informative and useful while showing how gardening and plants can calm and even for a little while make us forget our troubles,I hope things work out for Bob,I imagine with a friend like you he’ll be OK,Thank you for this

    1. Thank you, Tina. I’m glad you enjoyed this piece. I do think that a garden can be both a calming and fascinating place. I know that when I’m stressing over something, a bit of time spent among the plants offers the perfect remedy. It’s just the thing to redirect my focus and energy. As always, Tina, I thank you for your interest and for your kind thoughts and words.

  4. Another amazing article!!!!!
    So well written and perfectly explained with such gorgeous images from your magnificent garden!!!!

    1. Thank you, Roxxy. I appreciate your interest and your kindness. I’m glad you liked the piece. I do think that plants can be so fascinating. It’s a great deal of fun to observe and learn about each kind, and to later write about what I’ve discovered. I’m truly grateful for your kind thoughts and words, Roxxy. Once again, and as always, I thank you.

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