Everybody (except for those trashy neighbors across the street) wants the front of their house to look purty to folks that pass by. This is called curb appeal. Grumpy spied this excellent example a few days ago. The homeowners had framed their front porch with a lovely, native vine called Carolina jessamine. Now ain't that purty?
Grumpy approves of this vine for the following insightful reasons:
1. Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is native, thereby disarming all the native plant fanatics who regard Grumpy as an eco-terrorist.
2. Carolina jessamine is evergreen, so you won't have naked stems to look at for several months each year.
3. Carolina jessamine bears thousands of bright yellow, sweetly fragrant flowers in early spring.
4. Like most vines, this one grows fast, so you won't have to wait years for it to form the frame.
5. Unlike some vines (yes, wisteria, Grumpy's talking about you), Carolina jessamine won't destroy your house. Its thin, pliable stems won't pull off gutters or crush their support.
Carolina jessamine likes full to part sun and isn't fussy about soil. It's winter-hardy from the Middle to the Tropical South (USDA Zones 7-11). It never stops growing during warm weather, so you will have to trim back wayward stems from time to time. Look for pots of this fine vine at garden centers now.
Good Alternatives Carolina jessamine isn't the only flowering evergreen vine you can easily train over a porch, doorway, or bay window. Consider these too:
1. Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). It isn't a true jasmine, but gets its name from the galaxy of incredibly fragrant, star-shaped flowers that appear in late spring and early summer. Their perfume fills the whole yard. Like Carolina jessamine, its stems aren't destructive, it's easy to grow, and it likes full to part sun. It's not as cold-hardy (USDA Zone 8-11), though.
2. Armand clematis (Clematis armandii). An evergreen clematis? "Are you messing with my head? Don't mess with my head." No, as always, Grumpy speaks the truth. It's evergreen. Its handsome leaves are divided into three, glossy green leaflets from 3 to 5 inches long. Clusters of powerfully fragrant, white blossoms crown the foliage in early spring. Armand clematis likes the same growing conditions as Confederate jasmine.
Support Your Local Vine The three evergreen vines profiled here climb by twining stems. They don't attach themselves to masonry like ivy does. So if you want to create an effect like the porch above, you have to provide your vines with support. You can do this by placing a trellis on each side of the porch and then running wire between the two for the stems to follow. Once one stem has made the crossing, other stems will twine around it and foliage will fill the space.