Thursday, June 16, 2011

Covering the Pergola- Transplanting Hops

I love vertical gardens. I like vines, rambling rose bushes, and pillars of flowers. Unfortunately in Alberta there aren't many vines you can depend on to cover a yaght-sized pergola. We have some incredible climbing roses (which I'll feature in a couple weeks when they really get their bloom on!) on two of the pergola's posts, but I can't depend on these to provide shade. The last three years I've experimented with kiwi (too shady) and clematis (aesthetically too like Medusa's hair). Neither successfully grew to cover the top for mid-day shade in the heat of summer.

This year I have, against Mat's better judgement, transplanted hops. Its probably the one plant that Mat remembers from his mom's beautiful, lush, colour filled garden. Even in the zone 2, windy Crowsnest Pass, hops grew to cover a trellis at the entry of their home.  Mat doesn't remember its resiliency or shade or beauty, he remembers it clawing at him as he attempted to enter his home after school. He remembers it scraping up his arms and face as he fought it off the trellis every fall. 

Not the best picture- but the only one I can access from my laptop!
So the plant has some pretty spiny fruit and has the added annoyance of needing to be cut down every fall. It's a damn good climber and pergola cover. Rumours swirl that, in the heat of summer, you can sit back and literally watch it grow, growing two feet in a single day in optimal conditions. Plus, it's the beginnings of really good beer. I also had the additional incentive that my friend had dozens of new seedlings growing as weeds in her back yard. 

The information I read about planting hops was fussy; I ended up being not. I used a spade and hacked at the seedlings, then dropped each one with some knots of roots into a bucket. I then proceeded to forget them in the sun for most of the day. That evening, I hastily dug holes about the yard and planted the roots with some compost and water. Two weeks later, there are signs of life at 4 of the 6 planting sites: two along the pergola, three against the fence, and one in the alley. In fact, one root's already grown two feet of new life. Looking on it in delight, I again reassured Mat that I will "help to" take it down. And in the end, if his memory is right, I'm committed to ripping the darlings out (easier said than done?!)

PS. I will also add, that I love Virginia Creeper. It too would grow like a child on steroids with the added benefit of not needing to be cut down in the fall- and hence having much less 'vertical ground' to cover to reach the top netting every season. I may try this next year if my hops fails to work. My main hesitation is the baffling leaf hoppers: little, literally 'hopping' white insects that lay their eggs on the bottom of the leaf which turn the whole plant prematurely red. My main beef with them is not the early onset of autumn, it is their mob-like quality at your faintest move. You flourish an arm and they all get hopping at once. It's unnerving! On my other creeper, I have found no organic solution. If you have an antidote- please let me know as this plant would be an ideal friend to our pergola... and may save me some big marital tension in the fall. 


Anonymous said...

I once scraped my right eyelid on Mom-in-law's hops. It swelled up and fell over itself. It was awesome and painful.

Evelyn in Canada said...

I too would love a leaf-hopper remedy (besides Dr. Doom). I've been told they hate the taste or smell of leaves grown with worm castings, but that hasn't worked for me so far. I've got them on my grapes and I'd like to save the grapes!