Set a seasonal table under a gazebo of green.

Rebecca Bull Reed

Web-Exclusive Content: Grow Cypress Vine

Don’t wait for luck; cypress vine can be yours if you start it from seed. You can get seeds from a friend who grows this annual vine, or buy them from sources such as www.seed rack.com, www.park seed.com, and www.swallow tailgarden seeds.com. Keep in mind that once you have this vine, it may be yours (and your neighbor’s) for life, as it reseeds easily.

To ensure success, use ripe seeds that are small and black. The lighter-colored ones may still germinate, so don’t toss them.

Soak seeds in a small amount of water for 24 hours prior to planting. This will help to break the seed coat, speeding the germination process.

Sow them in a sunny spot about ½ inch deep, once the soil has warmed in the spring. May is usually good. Thin seeds to be at least 8 inches apart. Soil does not have to be rich, but well drained is best.

In one to two weeks, seedlings should emerge. A periodic application of half-strength water-soluble fertilizer during the first month of growth will speed things along but is not necessary. Within a few months, this vigorous vine will cover chain-link fences, arbors, and trellises, dying back after the first killing frost.

To collect seeds of your own for next year, look for browning seedpods where flowers used to be. They are oval, brown, and give a slight rattle when ready. Rolled between your fingers, they reveal tiny, hard, preferably black seeds. Save them in an envelope or plastic container in a cool, dark place until it’s time to plant.

Social Climber
Never have we begun a garden story by suggesting you should start with luck. But that’s how this one begins. One day, a nice lady noticed that a feathery vine had taken a liking to her metal-framed gazebo. “The seeds must have blown in from somewhere, because I didn’t plant them,” she says.

Positively identified as cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit), the annual climber engulfed the gazebo in just a few months, forming a space that became quite magical.

“It makes me feel like throwing a party,” says its owner, Gari Griffin of Homewood, Alabama. Here’s how we helped her create the perfect setting.

A Fabulous Fall Table
Step 1: Hang a chandelier that holds candles (try the Sirlig chandelier by IKEA) from the center of the gazebo. Then radiate red silk poppy lights (ours are from Cost Plus World Market) out from it.

Step 2: Beneath the lights, center a 52-inch round table draped with a king-size quilt (our quilt is from Bed Bath & Beyond).

Step 3: Fill a showy glazed container with ‘Cosmic Red’ and ‘Cosmic Orange’ cosmos, ornamental peppers, and roundleaf ferns (still in their pots). For the feel of fall, insert miniature pumpkins, spiked with grilling skewers, directly into the soil.

Step 4: Set plates atop berry-rimmed chargers (we used bittersweet, but pyracantha works too). Finish with folded napkins and swan gourds.

Step 5: As guests arrive, light candles, including small votives on the table and large hurricanes staged just outside the gazebo’s entrances. Enjoy!

Keep Them Under Control
Although pretty, both bittersweet and cypress vine can be invasive if unmanaged. When the party is over, bag and toss the fruit of bittersweet into the garbage―not the compost pile.

Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is reportedly more invasive that the waning native, American bittersweet (C. scandens). As for cypress vine, it is easiest to pull unwanted seedlings as they emerge in early summer.

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