Flowering creepers for garden screens
Published on: Sunday, January 10, 2021
By: Eskay Ong
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IT IS one thing to know that creepers are available everywhere for domesticating, but it is altogether quite another to have access to one that is not only widely grown and easily obtainable but also produces gorgeously outstanding and colourful flowers.

Many creeping plants, such as the ground-hugging Episcias, are not only lovely and attractive, but are also easily grown under various environmental conditions. Unfortunately, such plants are by and large, very delicate and easily damaged.  They also do not twine, wind or climb which means they are more likely to be bottom-heavy with little vigour to snake upwards.  

This is because the ornamental Episcia is basically a succulent type of plant, with the leaves and stems being crispy and brittle all through.  As such, despite the availability of a great number of succulent creepers and crawlers, their use is quite limited to instances where tender care and constant maintenance can be exercised.

Since most people, including the most fervent gardening enthusiasts, are not able to provide total care 100pc of the time, the plants, no matter how delicate and tender they may be, may be exposed to varying degrees of neglect, starting with those who may occasionally forget to supply an additional spray of water or grain of fertiliser, to those true slobs who can comfortably gloss over a garden full of trash, lallang or love grass.

Therefore, the question of what type of creeper to grow must of necessity, be related to the purpose for which the plant is intended.  For instance, creeping or climbing plants that are planned to cover or enshroud skeletal and cheap or run-down fencing material, may comprise those that have tough and wiry stems with plenty of long-lasting foliage.  Obviously, succulents do not fit such requirements as they would be easily damaged beyond rehabilitation within a short period of time.

Other creeping and climbing plants, including the Scindapsus, may be good, but it tends to be top, or sometimes bottom heavy, especially when it has hit a fertile patch.  Moreover, the resulting screen that is established with the planting of such plants, is never even and regular, except with regular training and tugging.  

Even the terrifically beautiful flowering vine known as Pseudocalymma alliaceum or Garlic Vine, or the strikingly attractive bloomer called Quisqualis indica (Rangoon Creeper) are likely to be lopsided in its thickness when grown up a fence structure for the purpose of creating a flowering screen.  Fortunately, the large masses of beautiful flowers with colours from purplish white for the former, and reddish pink for the latter, tend to somewhat make up for the little shortcomings.

Railway creepers as garden screens

To many people, the railway creeper sounds like a dull, lousy thud in the ear and signifies the existence of crawling problems in the days ahead.  This is nothing surprising as creeper-covered structures such as lamp posts, telephone posts, fences, sulaps, etc., have often become a common sight.  Such scenarios have instilled fear in many a plant lover who are out looking for suitable plants to screen the garden from prying eyes and busy-body noses.

However, when one looks deeper into the assets of the plant, one finds that there are more benefits and enjoyment that can be derived from the plant than disasters.  How else can it be when it was originally cultivated for ornamental purposes?  

Today, much of the focus on loveliness and shine have gone into the wilds and belukars, considering that lots of twiners, winders, clingers or stickers which can all be generally grouped within the creeper or climber group, have adapted rather well in untended situations and natural settings such as the fringes of jungles and swamp lands, abandoned and unused spaces, etc. 

In fact, they are so abundant everywhere that the once pretty ornamental has now been relegated to a common position which is also sometimes considered as undesired invasive plants. To the greenhorns, this may sound like a sad ending of a lovely and enchanting story, but to those who are in the know, this is not quite the case.

Firstly, the flowers of the railway creeper are produced in abundance virtually the whole year round. The trumpet-shaped flowers come in a pinkish purple colour, and these are produced in succession so that in a healthy plant, lots of these attractive flowers continue to bloom even when others have already called it a day. Usually, the flowers are fully open by mid morning but most do not last past mid day.  However, under shaded conditions or on cool and wet days, they may last a few hours longer.

As a creeping plant, the railway creeper is perfect for covering ugly structures or cheap looking, rotten fences.  During the early stage of smothering the structure, the growth is thin and even, but as the plant develops more shoots, the amount of material covering the structure can get thicker.  As a climber, its ability to climb is amazing, being very rapid and expansive.  Usually, spindly or weak structures may not take to the weight, especially if there is a heavy shower accompanied by strong wind.  

Often, the growth of railway creepers tends to be a little thin at the lower level.  This may be improved on with skilful pruning to encourage the production of more shoots and thus denser growth. Alternatively, the development of vegetative growth may also be aided by pulling and rearranging the excessively long vines so that the spread becomes more even.  

In a way, this may also help in increasing the issuing of new shoots from the nodes of the long vines which may soon build up into a thick and broad layer.  Also, growth may be boosted by the application of a little fertiliser or manure at the base of the plant.  With proper nutrition, the railway creeper can grow into a thick and large swathe of rich green foliage with plenty of bright purplish white flowers.

Then there is the ease in which the plant may be grown.  Railway creepers, although regarded by many greenhorns and the uninitiated as nothing more than useless, invasive weeds, are surprisingly easy to grow anywhere. Seeds or rooted cuttings may be used to propagate the lovely bloomer but once they have got off the ground, make sure that their growth is kept in control at all times.

For the mischievous youngsters, the railway creeper may be just the thing for the ingenious minds to play with.  Many years ago when hand phones, tablets and laptops were still not on the scene yet, creative kids used to take cuttings from the older sections of the vines and converted them into ‘bullets’.  

This they made by cutting pieces measuring 4-5 cm in length and then folding them into a V-shape.  Such ‘bullets’ when applied on a catapult or a thick rubber band, could be discharged and fired for a fairly long distance at ‘enemy’ butts during simulated ‘war games’.  Such games were much enjoyed with gusto by youngsters of old who had access to such vines but nothing else.

Watch out for excessive growth

With railway creepers, it is always a joy to see the terrific rate of growth, and the unfailing blooms that await to greet anyone who cares to open their eyes to have a look.

The rate of growth can only be described as awesome considering that it needs very little attention and inputs not only to survive but also to grow healthily.  As much as the plant is well-blessed in this respect, the factor is also the cause of its own relegation to a lower status.  In fact, the growth is so fast that before one realises what is happening, the plant is over the fence and going upwards to the roof, telephone posts, power lines, etc.

The phenomenal growth therefore, is the reason why most people are not inclined to cultivate the plant. But really, there is nothing much to worry about.  Just keep the vines well-trimmed and neat at all times, and the reward will be swift and plentiful, with a long period of satisfaction and beautiful colour.  They can also be used as cascades to slide down along barren walls or else grown as a cascading hanging pot plant where it is not too much to expect from 30-60 flowers per pot.  

Rather than surrender just about any piece of vacant space to lallang, it would be a good idea to throw some rooted cuttings over the plot and let the vines take root and start multiplying and spreading.  And if truly there are some lallang vying for space, the railway creeper would soon be growing over and smothering them as well as rewarding viewers with plenty of purplish, trumpet-shaped flowers. Sounds like not a very bad idea if it is about lallang versus railway creeper.

Once the growth and development of the creeper is about a metre thick, it should be time for some action, but not in the form of cutting and trimming.  Because the layer is thick and fluffy, much like a broad expanse of soft cotton, perhaps it would be a good idea to get a few blokes to lie down parallel to each other and then roll lengthwise over the entire stretch.  A few to-and-fro rolls would completely flatten the entire green for a much neater appearance. 

This should induce extensive sweating over the whole body which is good for health as a lot of bodily waste products such as ammonia, sodium chloride and other useless stuffs would be ejected. In a way, this also hugely benefits the plants because nitrogenous waste products are beneficial as a form of plant nutrient.

At the end of the day, it is a total win-win situation from all angles, and you should congratulate yourself by giving yourself a pat on the back.

Jom aramaiitiii with air suam only.

 

A trio of large railway creeper flowers.

 

It is normal for thousands of flowers to be produced on a vigorously growing plant with the only inputs that come from nature.

Leaves are five-lobed which should actually be seven as the separation of the bottom pair are inherently incomplete.

 

Untended railway creepers have the habit of climbing up anything including lamp posts or power cables. 

A few young flower buds about to open in a day’s time.

A faded flower which has exhausted its youth and beauty in a flow of life that is the same as human life.

 

A thick layer of railway creeper leaving behind its skeleton after the base of the plant is cut. Not necessary to apply herbicides.

 



A thick wall of railway creeper makes for a good barrier to screen off juicy or ecstatic happenings from being peeped at by nosy neighbours. 

As the age of the creeper advances, the vine grows thicker too and twines around anything just to make the climb a success.





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