One solution to hiding fences or disguising flaws on exterior walls of houses is to grow up.
Besides being functional, clinging vines and plants that can be coaxed to grow every which way add visual interest to your garden.
"Vines and other trainable plant material can serve more than one purpose," says Kevin Neely of Riverside Landscape and Nursery Supplies in Fresno, Calif.
Whether in small yards, large expanses or on porches or patios, plants that vertically grow on structures provide focal points, backdrops and cover-ups. Neely says growing up turns an otherwise flat-looking area into one with dimension.
Dianna Shafer of Miller-Clark Landscape and Nursery Co. in Fresno says plants grown on structures are pieces of art in the garden. "And if you are using deciduous plants and the plant is bare in the winter, the exposed structure can be an art form on its own."
Nurseries and garden shops are filled with structures and the plants that will grow on them. Gazebos, trellises, yard sculptures, obelisks, and wood and metal arbors abound. Garden books and TV shows give instructions for the do-it-yourselfer who wants to make his own structures.
Miller-Clark Landscape has wrought-iron gates and sections of vintage wrought-iron and chain-link fencing that are perfect for climbers.
"Old and old-looking structures often are more interesting than new," Shafer says. "They add a certain charm to the garden and may be things people have hidden away in sheds or garages."
Harry and Louise Sussman of Fresno use their old fence, trellises and wire forms filled with ivy to soften and hide elements in their yard. A needlepoint ivy grows on a frame of wire as an espalier attached to the back fence.
An espalier is a trellis on which trees and shrubs are trained to grow flat. The Sussmans' diamond framework, or trellis, adds visual interest to an otherwise ordinary wooden fence. The Sussmans trim the ivy three times a year to keep the shape.
Nearly every shrub and fruit tree can be trained to grow into an espalier. The pyracantha, a hearty and sun-loving shrub, and the blue atlas spruce tree are good choices, says Neely.
"Growing plant material in a flat, manicured manner, which is espalier, allows a gardener more flexibility because little depth is needed for growth," he explains.
Jenny Natali uses trellises in the narrow space between her driveway and Fresno home because there isn't room for trees or large shrubbery to hide the blank walls of her house.
On these trellises, and others in her front yard, Natali grows sweet peas, Carolina jessamine, roses and campanula.
Two Carolina jessamine-covered trellises frame some artwork on a garage wall, and she's planting a bougainvillea vine on a new back fence.
"I like things growing up, and every which way, really," she says. "I just like growing things."