Vines can be charming and add vertical interest to the landscape. They are considered to be under-used and tend to be over looked at our local nurseries. Silver lace vine is a great choice for gardeners in our diocese who are interested in a fast-growing, easy going and undemanding vine. Silver lace vine (Polygonum aubertii) is a vigorous, deciduous vine that can grow up to 12 feet in one year. This drought-tolerant vine twists its way around arbors, fences, and porch columns. Beautiful, white flowers embellish this low maintenance plant in the summer and fall.
In 1882, Albert von Regel, serving as a doctor for the Russian Army, collected seeds from a vine in Turkestan and sent them to his father, who was the director of the botanic garden in St. Petersburg. In 1896, the plant was first listed in the catalog of France’s most famous nurseryman, Victor Lemoine. Around the same time, a missionary named Georges Aubert sent seeds he collected in Tibet back to France, where it was named Polygonum aubertii in his honor. Later the two species were determined to be the same and the confusion began. Only God knows where the common name Silver Lace came into the text! Oh, and to add a little meat to the soup, it is also known as Russian vine, mile-a-minute vine and Chinese fleece flower.
Vines are useful for covering large areas of fences, hiding unsightly areas from view, and providing quick cover for new landscapes. Several vine varieties have adapted well to Colorado’s temperamental climate and this one seems to be extremely adaptable.
Silver lace vine is a member of the smartweed family, and as such is often included in that group under the synonym name Polygonum aubertii. It climbs by twining or will scamper across the ground or low growing shrubbery. It starts re-growth early and, weather permitting, can climb to 12 to 15 feet each season. Old vines can reach 25 feet or more. Its heart-shaped leaves are up to two inches long; they die with the first hard freeze without displaying any fall color.
In late summer and early fall, masses of white, fragrant flowers are produced in terminal clusters. Individual flowers are about one-fifth of an inch across, five-petaled and, on female flowers, produce fluted wings on the small, triangular ovary. These wings are often tinged with green or, as the fruit ripens, red. Vines bloom over a two-month period and drop spent blossoms during this period, so if tiny dropped flowers are an annoyance, it might not be a good choice over patios and other hard surfaces. The leaves are arrowhead-shaped, medium green color and have wavy or fluted margins. Bees are attracted to the flowers.
Silver lace vine can be considered an aggressive spreader, it shouldn’t be confused with wisteria or bind weed. It does best in full sun locations but will definitely tolerate partial shade. It thrives in fertile, well-cared for sites and in not-so-well tended areas.
Any vine with the potential for escaping its trellis should be planted where its spread to adjacent areas can be controlled. Severe pruning at any season can be used to control spread. It is hardy from zones 4 through 8.
The most serious pest problem are the Japanese beetles (to be featured in an upcoming issue).
As we enjoy these last days of spring and get ready for our fun-in-the-sun summer let us celebrate the vine!
“A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines.” — Frank Lloyd Wright, quoted in Reader’s Digest.