Mr. Postman, Look At Me
People often complain about how slow the mail is, but not Grumpy. Our mail carrier is super-efficient. If you follow her in your car through our neighborhood, you hardly need to slow down. I think she could drive in the Talladega 500. So Judy and I thought we would give her something pretty to look at when she stops in front of our house. We planted a crimson mandevilla vine at the base of our mailbox.
Go ahead, admit it. You wish this was your mailbox.
Native to South America, mandevilla is a vigorous, easily grown tropical vine that blooms nonstop from spring until the first autumn frost. It's been around for a long time—long enough that plant breeders converted its formerly coarse, dull-green leaves to smaller, glossy, deep-green ones. Profusely borne single or double flowers up to five inches across may pink, white, or various shades of red.
The mandevillas you're most likely to encounter at the garden center belong to the phenomenally successful Sun Parasol series. When shopping for them, keep in mind that they come in both a vining form that climbs and a bush form the doesn't. The latter is geared towards containers, while the former needs a support—like your mailbox—to climb on. Check the label to make sure you get the kind you want.
Show compassion for your mail carrier when growing vines on your mailbox. Don't use thorny plants like climbing roses or bougainvillea. Don't let the vine cover the door of your mailbox and make it difficult to open. And don't let it obscure the street number, lest your mail be mistakenly delivered to the house next door with the screeching little girls that you yell at every day. ("Will you SHUT UP over there! Get off my lawn!")
Mandevilla isn't winter-hardy above USDA Zone 10, but don't let that stop you from growing one. It isn't expensive, so you can treat it as an annual and plant a new one every spring. Or you can grow it in a pot that you can take indoors for winter. I've done both. It likes full to part sun and well-drained soil. Water when the leaves and flowers look droopy.
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Hardy Mailbox Vines
Unwilling to plant a vine that won't survive a freezing winter? Fine—alternatives abound. In cold winter areas, the vine of choice is the large-flowered clematis, particularly the purple one named "Jackmanii.' Clematis isn't evergreen, but it more than compensates with a spectacular floral display in late spring or early summer (depending on where you live) and then off-and-on blooms through the summer. Flowers up to 8 inches across may be blue, purple, red, pink, white, or bicolored. Clematis does best in moist, fertile, well-drained soil with its leaves in the sun and its roots either shaded or well-mulched to cool them.
Other flowering vines you might like to try are allamanda (looks like a mandevilla with bright yellow flowers), Carolina jessamine (needs frequent trimming lest it swallow your mailbox), ‘Amethyst Falls' American wisteria (not a destructive thug like its Asian counterparts), trumpet honeysuckle, morning glory, and moon vine.
Here comes the mail right on time! No need to go next door.