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Build a teepee for sweet peas and morning glories

If, like me, you love beautiful annual vines, but have limited space, bad soil, or a lack of sunny planting locations, try growing your vines on a teepee in a large pot or half-wine barrel.

A teepee makes a lovely showcase for sweet peas, morning glories, or other annual vines.

I started building small morning glory teepees after seeing a row of enormous ones in the cutting garden at Filoli in Woodside.

If you have room, two teepees are better than one: place them across from each other on each side of a path or paired in front of a gate or fountain.

The mechanics couldn't be simpler. Just fill a large container with fresh, purchased soil mix from a bag. Dampen the soil thoroughly and add more soil to bring it within a couple of inches of the top of the container.

Next, insert three or more bamboo poles - pick poles that are a compatible circumference for the size of your container - into the soil, forming equidistant supports for a teepee. Gather the tops of the poles in one hand and bind them together with tape or wire a few inches down from their tops.

For super duper vine support, you can wrap the outside of the teepee with chicken wire.

Then, if you want to start with sweet peas, purchase about 12 plants in pony packs right away. It's too late in the season to start them from seed this year. Plant the sweet peas around the base of the teepee and as their tendrils develop, guide them sideways , around and around, forming a living cover for the outside of the pyramid.

Sweet peas bloom for a longer time if they are grown in a location that receives only morning sun. Be sure to bait for snails and to pick the blossoms daily to encourage more flowers. You will notice that the stems get shorter and shorter as their season draws to a close, but their lovely colors and sweet fragrance will delight you as long as they bloom. It's fun to observe which colors bloom the longest - usually the deep pink ones, because they are the closest to the original, species color.

As soon as the sweet peas give up the ghost - probably in late April - you can move on to the cultivation of morning glories. Soak a couple of packages of seeds overnight in a glass of warm water to speed germination and then plant them at the base of the teepee. Again, train the tendrils around the poles or chicken wire, encouraging them to cover the pyramid. When the vines are well established, hold back a little on the water. With luck, they will bloom into October.

Carolyn Barnes covers home and garden issues for the Town Crier.

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