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Mr. Smarty Plants - Plants for pavilion over fountain in Washington State

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Friday - December 26, 2008

From: Castle Rock, WA
Region: Northwest
Topic: Water Gardens, Compost and Mulch, Herbs/Forbs, Vines
Title: Plants for pavilion over fountain in Washington State
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a tall fountain in a 7 foot square which is surrounded by pavers. Inside the 7' square there is about a 2' mulched soil bed around the center fountain and an iron type pavilion that goes up high over the fountain which is about 7' tall. I have tried to plant different vines, etc in the soil around the center fountain to grow up this pavilion but they always seem to burn up from the spray from the fountain and the sun hitting the leaves. Any idea what plant could handle both the spray and the sun without scorching? Have tried vines of different kinds but don't do well.

ANSWER:

This is a little difficult to visualize, but we will try to both list some reasons why this might not be working, and also suggest some plant material that could work. You say there is a 2' soil bed around the fountain, and we assume that is where you are planting the vines that are not working.

Our first question is: how deep and enriched is the soil in the 2' strip? If the soil is not sufficient to support the roots of the vines, and/or poorly draining, that could very well be the source of the problem. Very few plants can tolerate roots standing in water, and if there is paving beneath the soil without provision for drainage, the roots can drown. Even if there is drainage, but the soil itself does not drain well, as in clay, the addition of some compost or other organic material will both add nutrients to the soil and improve drainage. 

Second concern: Are you planting vines native to your area and adjusted to the sunlight available and the climate in general? Plants native to an area will already be adjusted, by eons of experience, to the soil moisture, sunlight and normal temperatures, and thus will be more likely to survive. Cowlitz County WA is apparently in Zone 5a (average annual minimum temperature -20 to -15 deg F.) to Zone 5b (average annual minimum temperature -15 to -10 deg F.) This could mean that vines would have to be treated as annuals, as they might not survive the winter temperatures. Also, your area appears to be very near the coastline, and may be subject to frequent winds, which can cause drying in leaves, especially in something like a vine, elevated above the surface. 

And, finally, what is the sun exposure? Many vines do better in partial shade, but it sounds as though your pavilion is in full sun, which we define as over six hours of direct sunlight a day. Of course, if the leaves are indeed being scalded by direct sun on leaves wetted by the fountain, it might be time to make a new plan. 

We found three vines that are native to Washington State.

Lonicera ciliosa (orange honeysuckle) - deciduous, orange flowers, perennial, blooms May to June, tolerates sun (6 hours or more of direct sun), part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun) and shade (less than 2 hours of shade), native to areas nearby yours, USDA Plants Profile

Lonicera hispidula (pink honeysuckle) - deciduous, perennial, sun, part shade, shade. native to your area according to this USDA Plants Profile.

Calystegia soldanella (seashore false bindweed) - blooms April to September, pink, has deep rootstock. Native to areas to the north and west of you, USDA Plants Profile

Most of the other vines we would ordinarily recommend are not found as far west as Washington and/or could not withstand the cold temperatures in the winter.  Perhaps you could consider planting lower blooming plants in your 2' soil strip that would be somewhat protected from the sun and spray, and provide a colorful base to the pavilion, which could then serve as an architectural feature.To find plants that could serve the purpose in this case, go to our Recommended Species section, click on Washington on the map. Click on NARROW YOUR SEARCH, select "herbs" (herbaceous flowering plants) under "Habit" and whatever other descriptions you choose, such as "perennial" for "Duration", light requirements and/or soil moisture. You can even select for months and colors of bloom, if you wish. When you click the "Narrow Your Search" box at the bottom, you will get a selection of plants from our database that should fit the specifications you have inserted, all native to Washington. You can follow the links by clicking on the scientific names, and read our webpages on each individual plant. Alter the specifications, and do it again to get even more results.  Here are four suggestions that we found using this method:

Chamerion angustifolium ssp. angustifolium (fireweed)

Dicentra formosa (Pacific bleeding heart)

Lupinus polyphyllus (bigleaf lupine)

Aquilegia formosa (western columbine)


Lonicera ciliosa

Lonicera hispidula

Calystegia soldanella

Chamerion angustifolium ssp. angustifolium

Dicentra formosa

Lupinus polyphyllus

Aquilegia formosa

 

 

 

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