The Stopwatch Gardener

A gardening blog from Sheila M. Averbuch

Virginia creeper: autumn colour you can respect


Click for larger imageA childhood spent near Boston has given me a penchant for the sugar maple, acer saccharum, and an ache at this time of year to see similar autumn brilliance in Scotland. The wild cherries, sorbus and beeches here try their best, but the colours and the scale just aren’t the same. Our tiny garden could never cope with acer saccharum, but for me the Japanese acers are out of the question. Compared to the 70 foot maples near my old home, they are pitiable, overengineered miniatures — as far from my ideal as a poodle from a wolf. The best way I’ve found to get those fiery New England oranges and non-stop reds is with the Virginia creeper, parthenocissus quinquefolia. Don’t expect this self-clinging climber to get its adhesive pads really working until it’s been around for a few years: it needs initial support such as vine eyes and wires. Now that mine’s got its head into the sun, it’s taking off more vigorously and should give good coverage over the high stone wall by my office. I like its papery leaves better than the leathery shine of parthenocissus tricuspidata, and this year, at least, its colours weren’t a flash in the pan: they held on for a good 3 to 4 weeks from early September, before dropping all at once. If it can keep that up, I’ll continue to count the other 49 weeks as time well spent.

posted under Gardening
5 Comments to

“Virginia creeper: autumn colour you can respect”

  1. On October 22nd, 2009 at 11:54 pm Deborah at Kilbourne Grove Says:

    I lived in London, England for two years and I did miss a North American autumn. But, Virginia creeper, the colour is just amazing! A little taste of fall.

  2. On October 23rd, 2009 at 2:46 pm Lia Says:

    I planted one last year and you are right, it is most underwhelming this year. but i have high hopes. Have you considered Cercis canadensis Forest Pansy or even humble old Cotinus?

  3. On October 24th, 2009 at 4:57 pm Alice Joyce Says:

    I was surprised to find rich fall color in Northern California after moving here for Chicago. Wanted to say how much I like the design of your site!

  4. On October 25th, 2009 at 12:07 am Sylvana Says:

    I have heard that the autumn colors in North America can’t be beat around the world – something about our special climate. Glad you found a substitute.

    Love your blog template. What’s really funny is I have a blogger friend that used to live in New England and moved to Scotland, and she had the same template (except she kept the original Chaos paisleys). Weird. I like your poppy just as much.

  5. On October 25th, 2009 at 8:30 pm The StopWatch Gardener Says:

    Lia – great tip, Forest Pansy tempts me hugely…I love its leaf form and overall look at every stage. Our neighbour has a continus ‘Grace’ with amazing colour but its leaves drop the moment they get fiery…and, funny, but continus’ sombre early-season colours and plumes are a downer for me, even though Cercis has simiilar tones.

    Alice – thanks a mil!

    Sylvana – thanks & how bizarre is it that your friend had the same template? Am still playing around with this a bit but it’s a great basis to work from.

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