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Ever on the lookout for unique plants that will grow in my Zone 5a/b garden, I occasionally discover one that I feel other gardeners would like to know about, because of its ease of care and other positive attributes.
Such is the case for Asparagus verticillatus, an asparagus variety that vines. It truly is a gem in the garden. Unfortunately, only the barest information about this plant is readily accessible. I hope to do my part in this article to help change that.
Because it is bone hardy (Zones 3-9), this vine will grow in almost all regions of the country. Exceptions would include extremely dry climates and extremely acid soils. It is said to do well in most soil types, ranging from sandy to loamy to mostly clay.
I planted my first Asparagus Vine in loamy soil about five years ago. I chose a sunny border anchored by a semi-dwarf apple tree. Since the vine doesn't twine tightly or produce appendages that attach to a support, I planted it under the apple tree, fairly close to the trunk. The stalks grow straight up about 30 inches (higher in part shade) after they emerge in the spring. Only then does branching take place. The tips continue to grow upward as the stalks send out numerous horizontal branches. These branches rest on the branches of the apple tree and support the stalks.
The branches are semi-pendulous and produce small needle-like leaves as well as branchlets (see photo). The effect is light and airy. Since the whole plant weighs very little, no strong support--as, for example, you would need for a wisteria vine--is required. After several years of scrambling up into the apple tree about eight feet or so, I transplanted the vine to an arbor, so that I could appreciate its delicate appearance more. This spring, I added a second vine to the opposite side of the arbor (see photo above).
Vining Asparagus blooms for me in early summer, producing tiny, white, slightly fragrant blossoms that combine nicely with the dark green foliage. Berries appear in late summer and turn red in fall. The plant self-sows modestly in my garden, having produced three or four seedlings since I planted it.
You can raise A. verticillatus from seed quite easily. Allow the berries to shrivel up and dry in the fall, collect the seed and store it in a container outdoors in a shady, protected spot or in the refrigerator. Once the ground is workable in the spring, soak the seed for 12-18 hours and then sow it on the site you have chosen. The seed should be barely covered with soil. Keep soil moist but not soggy. Make sure that any plants in the vicinity won't eventually shade or crowd the seedlings.
If you like trouble-free vines that don't overpower everything in their path, give the Vining Asparagus a try. I think you'll be glad you did.
An enthusiastic gardener for over 50 years, my first plant was a potted Ponderosa Lemon tree ordered from a comic book ad at age 15. I still have it, and itís still bearing lemons! My wife and I garden on 3/4 of an acre, both flowers and vegetables. Although our garden is private, it's listed with the Smithsonian Institution in its Archives of American Gardens and is on the National Register of Historic Places. We garden organically and no-till. Our vegetable garden contains a seed bank of vegetables brought to this country from Germany in the mid-1800s. For more info: http://davesgarden.com/community/blogs/m/LarryR/. Photos that appear in my articles without credit are my own.