Good fences make good neighbors goes the saying, and maybe in the old days it was the case. Today, we have so many choices of fencing besides our Hawaiian stone walls that the wrong fence might create all kinds of neighbor problems. It is hard to beat lava stone walls. They always look great, but some kinds of fencing can be unsightly.
Take the case of the two fellows who got into a feud because the chain link fence one put up made the other feel like he was in the county jail. When you think about it, chain link, concrete block and many other fence and wall materials do look kind of harsh. They just don’t give us that luxurious tropical feeling, so here is where vines and hedge materials make ideal landscape additions.
Concrete and chain link make ideal supports for the many types we have available like the red passion flower, jade vine, flame vine Kuhio vine, potato vine, bougainvillea, creeping fig and many others. Vines serve many purposes for the gardener. Take the one that produces egg-like gourds — it’s ideal for the practical joker. Then there is a vine that specializes in dishcloth production, called the luffa.
As food sources, there are chayote and other squash relatives as well as several species of passion fruit. For higher elevations consider kiwi fruit, and climbing roses. Bird lovers like vines because they attract birds and are good nesting locations. Other lovers like the privacy vines give them when sitting on the lanai. Youngsters and young at heart like vines because they harbor geckos and chameleons.
Last but not least, vines are fine because of their attractiveness both in foliage and in flowers. Vines lend contrast and character to landscape plantings. They accentuate architectural lines, especially the closely clinging species. Many of the creepers are adept at introducing color, form and texture onto otherwise uninteresting objects, fences, arbors or non flowering trees.
Avid gardeners say that vines are the best plants to give their homes an air of tropical living by using them to cover passageways or to form patio walls. Ornamental vines, as a group, are well adapted to a wide range of soils. Most of them thrive in sand, clay or rock land, provided plant food and moisture are adequate. Soil preparation is most important in a vine planting project. Time spent improving the soil will produce vigorous plants and possibly have trouble-free care later.
To get a project underway, spread about 4 inches of compost, peat, leaf mold, or well decomposed manure over the area where the vines will be planted. As a topping, sprinkle the area with a balanced slow release fertilizer, and then mix the organic material and soil with a spade. The soil at the base of masonry construction often contains trouble-making lime, paint and other debris, so remove the contaminated soil to a depth of 18 inches.
Replace it with a good soil. Planting season for vines is any time the notion strikes you, provided the vines are small, thrifty, container-grown plants. In planting, dig a hole, which is several times larger than the ball of the earth about the roots. If the plant is in a container, carefully remove the plant without disturbing the roots and settle it in the hole at the same depth it was in the container. Partially fill in around the plant with soil. Water thoroughly. Finish filling the hole and water again.
When two or more vines growing side by side become hopelessly entwined, the effect can indeed be attractive. Vines can complement one another in several different ways: An evergreen vine hides the bareness of a deciduous vine; vines blooming at different seasons extend the flowering season. Vines blooming at the same time can display handsome color contrasts or blends.
There are dozens of tropical vines available here on the Big Island. The Bengal clock vine, with its sky blue or white flowers, the garlic vine, flame vine, bougainvillea, confederate jasmine and philodendrons are just a few. Green jade and red jade vines are rare and spectacular. Check with local nurseries and get acquainted with what is available. If that fence is harsh and ugly, you can screen it with hedge materials as another alternative.
Chain link is relatively inexpensive and can secure an area very nicely. However, large expanses of chain link as we have at the Old Kona Airport Park playground in Kona and many places in Hilo would be much better if screened with a row of clumping palms, hibiscus or other appropriate plants materials. So take a look around your neighborhood. See what can be done to beautify those troublesome and unaesthetic trouble spots. This information is supplied by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.