There are sensible reasons to plant vines in your garden. If you don't have much space, they grow up, not out.
If you are a weekend gardener without time or energy for extended labor, they have a small footprint and don't need much tending. Established perennial vines just show up in the spring and start growing.
Some grow up from the ground; others bud on last year's dried out wood, without you having to do anything except perhaps remove the mulch.
But the main reason to have vines is the magic. There's something mysterious, even enchanting, about how they climb fences and trellises -- grasping, twisting and twining over and around everything in their way, including other plants, reaching for -- what? It's all very Zen.
We're not talking about simple long-armed plants here -- vining geranium, trailing lobelia, Wave petunias -- lovely flowers that fling their limbs over the sides of hanging baskets are not vines. Our vines climb. Here are a few climbers for beginners:
KIWI -- A sturdy, fast-growing vine that will cover an arbor in a few years if you let it.
Originally called Chinese gooseberry, the name got changed in the 1960s by New Zealand exporters trying to create a market for the fruit in the U.S. and England. Alaska vine-nuts don't grow them for the fruit -- you're better off buying kiwis at the super market.
We like them because they are hardy and have abundant foliage if planted properly in the sun, and because they grow fast.
Cathy at Forget Me Not Nursery in Indian has a bunch of good-looking second-year plant and the Alaska Botanical Garden lists kiwi as one of the perennials available at its May 26 spring plant sale. Most nurseries carry them so you should be able to find a couple. Warning: Do not cut kiwi back in the fall. It's a woody, twining vine that blooms on last year's growth, so make sure you plant it against a support that you like and will last.
HOPS -- The lowly hops vine doesn't get any respect, probably because it doesn't do anything spectacular. It just grows and grows and grows. Then it dies back to the ground over the winter, and grows again next spring.
It won't produce enough hops to make beer, but this is the vine you want to cover that ugly fence.
Looking for a discreet way to screen out your neighbor? This is your plant. It's attractive as a backdrop for colorful flowers and does OK in part shade. It claims to be hardy to 40 below and grow to 20 feet.
We can attest to the 20 feet but, thank God, haven't tested the minus 40 yet. Anna at Sutton's has a new (to us) variety, "Golden Hop," which promises to produce golden leaves as a change from green.
CLEMATIS TANGUTICA -- Do you love those classic blue and purple flowered clematis vines so abundant in England and other warmer places? Well, sorry, tangutica doesn't look anything like that. However, it's a good clematis for beginners because it's hardier than its brethren and is harder to accidentally kill.
Tangutica is a woody vine that likes a sunny location but will survive in part shade.
The flowers are actually more interesting than classic clematis -- yellow lanterns that mature into feathery little balls.
Aline Strutz, queen of pioneer Anchorage gardeners and former first lady Ermalee Hickel's mother, is credited with bringing tangutica to town, allegedly after collecting seeds along the Alaska Highway. Again, don't cut them back to the ground in fall.
There are now several classic clematis hybrids that can survive our winters. Your local nursery owner or Alaska Master Gardeners will know what to recommend for your location.
ANNUALS -- Among this-summer-only vines worth planting, Canary Bird is most often mentioned, but Cathedral Bells is more beautiful and seems to deliver more punch for the effort. It's a campanula variety, and they do well here.
Sweet Peas are not that interesting for most of the summer but, again, they're pretty easy and their beautiful, multicolored blooms make the long green wait worthwhile.
These are only a few of the many vines available, especially if you don't mind annual plantings. Try a few. They really are fun.