Edible Vines

Vines are a great way to grow a garden "up," especially wonderful if you are short on space.

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Vines are a great way to grow a garden “up,” especially wonderful if you are short on space.

In any garden, vines add height and provide screening. Commonly grown vines that provide ornamental beauty include Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), clematis and wisteria, but there are others that are both edible and ornamental. In my own garden I separate the ornamental flower garden from the vegetable garden with a fence that’s 2.5 m (8 ft.) tall and 15 m (50 ft.) long, covered in grape vines. At Milner Garden and Woodland in Qualicum, a massive arbour is covered in kiwi vines. While they are not perennial, scarlet runner bean vines quickly cover a wire frame, produce showy red flowers and quantities of bean, best harvested very young and tender. Here are some other choices to consider: • ‘Beta’ grape (Vitis hybrid): Cold hardy to zone 2, these are the earliest grapes to ripen, at the end of August. The large, blue-black fruit is suitable for making jellies and juice. • Saanicheon’ kiwi (Actinidia deliciosa): This zone-7 vine was developed in B.C. for colder climates. It requires at least 1 male plant for each 6 female plants. Cultivars are identified as either male or female; an excellent male cultivar is ‘Chico’. Kiwis require full sun and are quick growers. Be sure to provide strong support as they attach by winding around their support. • ‘White Emergo’ runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus): A vigorous climbing annual, this cultivar produces masses of white flowers followed by large, flat, smooth green beans. Sow directly into garden beds, window boxes or hanging baskets in late May or early June. • Malabar spinach (Basella rubra): This perennial vine, only hardy to zone 10 so often grown as an annual, grows prolifically all summer. Both tasty and nutritious, the leaves resemble spinach and can be used in salads, stir fries, and soup. Unlike true spinach, malabar loves the sunny weather.