51202Boston ivy is not really ivy at all; but is more closely related to grape. Along with creeping fig, it is one of the two best vines for freeway sound-walls. It protects the walls from graffiti and muffles sound. Unlike creeping fig, which is evergreen, Boston ivy is surprisingly colorful through autumn. Unfortunately, it clings to whatever it climbs with holdfast discs, so ruins paint, stucco, and any other surface it gets a hold of.

Then there is ornamental grape, Vitis vinifera. It is about as colorful as Boston ivy, and can climb almost as aggressively to thirty feet, but lacks the damaging holdfast discs. It is nearly fruitless, which may seem like a waste of an otherwise perfectly good grape vine; but it will not make much of a mess until it defoliates. If any of the tiny fruit actually matures, it will almost certainly get eaten by birds before anyone notices.

Since it does not grip so tightly to what it climbs, ornamental grape can get rather shrubby. Outer growth can overwhelm and shade out inner growth, and can eventually produce a thicket of dead canes. Pruning back superfluous shrubby growth while bare in winter promotes more vigorous new growth the following spring and summer. Ornamental grape likes full sun exposure.

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10 thoughts on “Ornamental Grape

  1. Likewise I did not know of ornamental grape. The wild grape of N.A., Vitis riparia might be a good candidate for an ornamental as fruit hangs on through the winter, gradually being eaten by birds and I think that it looks nice. Not sure if it is damaging to wall etc. but it will pull off quite easily. Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia is also a nice one and has some red foliage in the fall and it too will pull off easily. But then I’m not looking at these from the point of view of a landscape gardener.

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    1. The clingy nature of Boston ivy that makes it so undesirable around the home is precisely why it works so well on the soundwalls of the freeways. It does not damage the concrete, but covers so thoroughly! It is funny how that works out.

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    1. Yes! That can be an advantage on freeway sounwalls. It should not be grown on painted surfaces or where it can get into trees! It is very aggressive. It happens to be one of the strangler figs within its native range.

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    1. It is probably not as destructive on the brick buildings there, as long as it is controlled and not allowed to get under shingles and such. Except for freeway soundwalls, interchanges and a few concrete buildings, there is not much for Boston ivy to climb here.

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