Vines are not the most common species grown as bonsai in the U.S., but they do make a unique addition to any collection. Their best features are rampant growth and showy flowers – and of course, the fact that they flower readily in container culture. The most common vines used in the U.S. for bonsai are wisteria, Wisteria floribunda and others, honeysuckle, Lonicera sp., and Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia.
Another vine species common to the U.S., but not commonly grown as bonsai, is trumpet vine, Campsis radicans. They’re found most everywhere in the Eastern U.S., are easy to collect, and from what I’ve read do well in container culture.
I’ve been toying with the idea of growing a trumpet vine for some years now, but haven’t run across a sizable enough specimen during my travels. This problem solved itself as I waited. I planted the fig tree shown at left in my yard several years ago. As it grew, so did a trumpet vine that sprouted right at the base of the fig. The trumpet vine dutifully coiled its way around the fig tree, growing upward as the fig grew taller. Yesterday, with a trunk size finally suitable for bonsai, I decided it either came out or was probably going to eat the fig tree. I got a lot of figs this year, and decided I prefer being able to continue eating figs as opposed to having the trumpet vine eat my tree.
Anyway, in this photo you can see the base of the trumpet vine tucked in between two of the three trunks of the fig. Very well tucked in! I knew before I started that this was not going to be an easy task. But since it was 95 degrees with a heat index in excess of 100, how could I resist the challenge?
Voila! That wasn’t so hard, was it?
But seriously, this is the part of the vine I disentangled from the fig tree. The base of the trunk is 1.5″, and it’s running in excess of 30″ in height out of the ground. There’s not a huge amount of root, but with vines this doesn’t seem to be an issue.
You have a couple of options with vines: either go with a literati style if you want a taller specimen and the vine has little to no trunk taper, or cut to a suitably sized branch in order to establish taper. I went with the latter approach on this one, since the option was available. It’s now 10.5″ tall to the tip. Also, I buried it deep because of the unavoidable damage I did to the lower trunk as a result of the (#@&!^$) collecting process. Vines will root wherever they contact the soil, so I have no concerns about this specimen layering itself.
I should know in a week or two if I’ve been successful.