Vines seem to provide more chances to cause major garden trouble than any other plant category. When choosing a vine ask yourself: can you provide optimum growing conditions for the plant? Consider factors like sun and access to water.
Vines need room to grow. Some need lots and lots of room. Consider how or if the vine attaches itself to the support or structure. Plants with aerial roots like a climbing hydrangea can hoist themselves up a wall or tree trunk with no help. Unfortunately this sometimes means they insert their own vigorous tendrils into the masonry or under the shingles of a house.
Clematis climb by twining their slender stems around a wire or other thin support. Generally some kind of pruning and training is required. Be sure to know what you are getting into, and decide if you are willing and able to provide the proper care.
Most vines will need some sort of support. There are plans available for the do-it-yourselfer, as well as pre-build structures. You need to think realistically about your construction skills and the cost of materials plus any tools you might need to purchase. To reduce maintenance use unpainted treated lumber, redwood, or cedar. Consider new materials like dimensional lumber or lattice made of recycled plastic.
The flimsy wood structures often sold will crumble under the larger vines but may do very well for one of the daintier Clematis. Maintaining the support can also be challenging. Cleaning, painting, staining, and potential insect damage are more difficult when a vine scrambles all over the trellis.. Using annual vines or herbaceous perennial climbers that die back in the winter on painted wood structures gives you a chance to do routine maintenance before it gets growing in the spring.
I can't think of anything more romantic than a vine covered cottage. However, sometime into the honeymoon, painting, cleaning and window washing will have to take place. If you decide to use vines on your house plan ahead so you won't destroy the vine to get to the house. On the other hand you also need to prevent the vine from damaging the house. Clinging tendrils are hard to remove from wood, and can pull loose mortar from between bricks. Vigorous growers can clog gutters, lift up shingles, and possibly rip off fascia boards. Use only stainless steel or other non-rusting hardware to avoid stains caused by water.
If running a vine up the house now seems like a poor idea, think of growing vines over other plants. Choose companions of similar needs and habits, such as shade plant with shade plants, drought tolerant with drought tolerant. Be sure the vine won't smother its companion.
The aesthetics are up to you. Visit established gardens and thumb through coffee table gardening books for ideas.
Vines to Consider:
Actinida kolomikta, Kiwi vine grows rapidly to fifteen feet with heart-shaped variegated leaves. Some leaves are all white, some green and white and some with a rosy pink variegation. There is a specimen growing in the courtyard at UW Center for Urban Horticulture. Provide it with a sturdy support. As far as I know the only pruning needed is to remove dead, or tangled shoots, perhaps some thinning to maintain the shape. During the summer shorten overlong shoots and unwind shoots that twine around the main branches. This particular variety is ornamental, and does not produce fruit.
Akebia quinata, or fiveleaf akebia. Usually deciduous in our area is a fast growing up to 20 feet. It grows in sun or shade. It benefits from annual pruning and recovers quickly when cut to the ground. That would be a solution if you need to paint the structure it's growing on. Although mostly grown for the handsome foliage, it blooms in April. The fleshy purple flowers may produce edible fruit that looks like 3-4" purple sausages.
Wisteria spp. The most commonly heard complaint is "My wisteria
won't bloom." They can take up to seven years to start blooming. After
that you need to consider that you might have a plant that is a seed grown "mule"
that will never bloom. Grafted named varieties would be your best bet. If you
have a wisteria Cass Turnbull of PlantAmnesty
has an excellent article on pruning
wisteria vines. You can also contact PlantAmnesty at 206-783-9813 for their
Hortsense: Managing plant problems with Integrated Pest Management