Twiners, such as honeysuckle, climb by winding around supports.
There’s a dogwood dying in my backyard next to the property line. My neighbor finds that nearly dead trees depress her, but for some inexplicable reason, until it’s completely gone, I’m reluctant to cut it down. Over a glass of wine one evening, a solution surfaced that would satisfy both of us. We’d let a wisteria climb it. By the time the vine winds its way to the top, the tree will have evolved into little more than an inanimate support.
There are more than two dozen ways that vines climb, but most are basically variations on four themes: twiners, and vines that climb by tendrils, aerial rootlets, or some type of hook. The wisteria is easy to figure out. The candidate my neighbor and I selected is the Chinese variety, Wisteria sinensis, which means it’s going to send out long shoots that will wind counterclockwise around a support, eventually hardening into twisted, woody trunks several inches in diameter. Japanese wisteria, W. floribunda, winds clockwise.
Twining vines such as these need only a sturdy support (for wisteria, very sturdy). Little coaxing is required. Hyacinth bean or lablab (Lablab purpureus), honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.), and chocolate vine (Akebia quinata) are all twiners. Each encircles its support in the direction predetermined by its genes. In some cases, a vine’s innate tendency is to climb haphazardly. But first, the tip of a twiner’s new shoot casts about in a wide arc until it finds an object to latch onto. Such efficient climbing allows you to spend energy elsewhere, since it’s often easy to tell whether or not the shoots are heading where they’re supposed to.