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Michael Longfield
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I love the idea of vines crawling along walls of buildings. This allows for biology to cool our homes. I have heard that vines can damage buildings, by causing cracks in the stone or other building material. I figure this would be largely dependent on the species. I would love to compile a list of good vines for cooling the home, arranged by climate. Vines with added food or medicine yield would be an added bonus.
 
Katie Bretsch
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I've been doing research and observation on this for about 15 years, but have never gotten together the organization to share any of it. I would love to do a brain dump of what I've learned to someone who can run with it.

I came to the conclusion that the traditional vine for this purpose, the Parthenocissus tricuspidata or henryana called Virgin Vine East of the Atlantic and Boston Ivy on this side is the best choice. My neighbor who is an environmental geologist has had it on his unreinforced masonry warehouse building for nearly 15 years and has observed no deterioration consequent to the vine. Hedera helix, English ivy, on the other hand, though traditional, is a major bad actor ecologically and for damage to the substrate. The large-leafed Crimson Glory Vine is a bad actor, too. It is way too aggressively rampant and hard to discourage. The Virgin Vine or Boston Ivy is easily discouraged. Mere brushes of the hand on the emerging tendrils of new growth will stop it. Crimson Glory vine needs a machete.

I am experimenting with growing it on my own painted wood house. There are a bunch of painted wood houses around here that are growing it on their West and/or South faces.

After all that I've seen, I am of the opinion that P3 (my shorthand) is actually protective of its substrates. Masonry and painted wood are far more vulnerable to extreme heat and parching than to surface damp. What I think has happened is that people lost the knowledge of maintaining masonry. It has a given life, irrespective of what you grow on it. It will need repointing and repair periodically. If you neglect that, it will worsen until it falls apart.

My advice for people is to bank some of the 25% savings in cooling energy demand it provides and put that in a maintenance set-aside.

Interestingly, the Chinese also found 12 % savings in heating energy demand. Fascinating.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I have found that grapevines grown against the house, on a proper trellis,  seldom do damage to the building.

English Ivy is the most destructive plant I've seen growing against houses. I have demolish many and some had their siding completely destroyed by it. Ivy forces gaps in woodwork and the rotten debris from it creates a substrate for agents of decay. When vines are allowed to make it to the roof,  they create the perfect channel for water to flow down. This water can enter the walls .

If masonry is done properly in the first place, and there is a decent overhang on the roof, it's possible to get more than a century out of the mortar joint with no maintenance whatsoever.

I'll take some photographs the next time I work on a wall that has been destroyed by English Ivy.
 
Michael Longfield
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Great posts!! Thanks for sharing. I'd love to see this become a rich thread.

And thanks Katie for popping out of the woodwork on this thread with your first post!! I wish I had an apple to give!
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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What a great conversation...and..."right up my vine!..."....(sorry, I had to do it!)

I too have been looking at this wonderful aesthetic and the many (not all) unfounded claims of destruction in many places. Yet have I seen the "plants" actually causing damage but blamed for the issues that poor drainage, moisture management, and even in one case where the brick had been painted and the walls inside sealed with plastic and foam. The interstitial moisture build up, and leaks in the capping all destroyed the walls masonry, yet the plants caught the blame. It took another three years after the plants had been removed (and the original contractor now out of business) before the...real issues...got the blamed. Even then another Contractor (with no background in either botany or historical restoration) insisted on doing the same thing as the first, just in a different way...So, 5 more year went on with issues...I haven't seen that project since. I would point out that in that neighborhood there are a number of old buildings, still going strong, with vines all over them...

Katie, you hit the "nail on the head!"

LOST KNOWLEDGE...is the primary issue...and now way to many "experts" running solely by assumptions alone, not actual experience, knowledge of, or even a deep examination over time. I have seen all manner of "vining plant" on the sides of buildings. Yes there are good ways and not so good way to facilitate this, yet it does not suggest that just about any climbing species can't be used for a very beautiful aesthetic.

I have been a student of "animal enclosure design" for endangered species husbandry for over 40 years. This was my primary focus in college...(until I was overwhelmed by my other interests as well.) These systems of "artifical wood and stone" plus natural materials as well, joints into this conversation nicely. From this area I began following and corresponding with folks like Patrick Blanc (see a presentation at Patrick Blanc present "The vertical garden") who demonstrates many ways to achieve this and there are, of course, simpler "grassroots" methods as well that do not require much more than having a stone or lime rendered wall and some variety of vining plant.

I would also draw folks attention to: Condensation, and other moisture related challenges in natural building... post that I split off of "Raised Earth Foundations." In this post moisture is being debated, and I have posted a few photos that tie into this post topic which I have shared below.

Maison Feuillette straw bale circa 1921 and still going strong, plastered in lime...and please note...covered in Ivy? also proven that plant coverage is not the issue so many claim!!


Great topic folks...thanks for posting it Michael...

j
 
William Bronson
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Ihave been thinking that a lattice set apart from the face of the building would be good for preventing plant damages , it would make maintenance easier and it could provide a convection area for cooling.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Most of the destruction that I've seen,  has been on buildings with wooden walls. The plants are neglected and allowed to make it over the soffit and onto the roof. Once on the roof, they create a corredor for water to flow down, similar to the chains used rather than downspouts for managing water on japanese buildings. It can have a stump six inches or more in diameter,  here in BC. I've seen it get in the crack between the facia board and the gutter. Once the gutter is pushed away from the facia board, it allows water to flow freely into the soffit and down the wall.


My primary issue with English ivy is it becomes the dominant groundcover in forested areas, and it brings down mature trees.

There are many vines that produce something useful. Grapes,  peas,  beans,  squashes and many other things grow on vines.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Dead on, Dale!

A perfect description of what...not to...allow to happen.

I would also point out (please anyone correct me if I am incorrect...) English Ivies are a non native cultivar species and probably not a first choice for permaculture work. I have also seen them be one of the species that can facilitate delamination in masonry and renders if not grown properly. English Ivies are o.k. on stone work with tight joints but in general, as with most "climbers," should be trained, trellised and very much "pruned and maintained" on a regular basis...the latter is what leads to issues when neglected!

Regards,

j
 
Katie Bretsch
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English ivy is terrible for several reasons, the destruction it does to built structures not the worst. But there are others that are destructive, too. Wisteria is very destructive if not properly trellised and trained. Its mature weight is huge and it actively seeks cracks to exploit. Kiwi gets very heavy, though it isn't as adept at finding and exploiting cracks.

The nursery varieties of Virgin Vine or Boston Ivy have tiny grape clusters that hide under the foliage. It is that habit, of hiding its flowers and fruit, that earned it the common name, Virgin Vine. I don't know what the genetics say, but by appearance and habit, Virgin Vine is simply a tiny-fruited cultivar of domestic wine grape.

Like the wine grape, it takes lots of heavy pruning if ylu want to use it that way. My neighbor, the env geologist with the masonry warehouse, takes it off and lets it grow back as needed, where needed, without resort to a trellis, and it does just fine.
 
Katie Bretsch
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BTW, I love this thread! Thank you all!
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Boston Ivy on the Portland Nursery building at 5050 SE Stark, Portland
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ENSO urban winery building, SE Stark, Portland
 
Dale Hodgins
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If Oregon were to spend all of its revenue for a decade on ivy removal, that might end the problem there. I know of no another place where English Ivy has cause so much harm to parks and wilderness areas.
 
Katie Bretsch
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True. Hedera helix, English ivy, is terrible here. It is very effectively reseeded in bird droppings, so as long as you've got fruiting patches of it you will find new patches everywhere. Nightmare plant in the PNW.
 
Katie Bretsch
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Mostly I am interested in using vines to cool and green existing structures. Imagine the potential impact! It is freaking enormous. I also imagine every new building clothed in vines. That is what they called it over 100 years ago. One would chose a vine to "clothe" a building. The gigantic climbing roses were bred for that purpose.

Here are some more pictures of pre-existing structures adapted with vines for cooling.



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Michael Longfield
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I stumbled upon a section in the Earth Care Manuel titled Green Walls(page154), where Whitefield talks about vines for heating and cooling structures.

He says, "summer cooling happens by three means: firstly by shading, secondly by transpiration and evaporation from the leaves, and thirdly by insulation trapping still air between the leaves and the wall." He says vines will protect masonry rather than damage it, but still says it is best to grow climbers on trellis 10 to 40 cm away from the wall, to maximize insulation.

He recommends deciduous vines on the south, to allow the winter sun to warm the building, as well as on the east and west walls as long as they catch winter sun. He recommends evergreens on the north wall.

Some recommended plants are ivy(evergreen), boston ivy(deciduous), russian vine(d), hop(d), hardy kiwi A arguta(d), Hardy kiwi A. Kolomikta(d), grape vine(d), bramble(d). He doesn't list which ones require a trellis or not.

Hops is listed as a very fast growth rate. I think I may be trying several different climbers on each wall to experiment. Hops on the top of my list.
 
Katie Bretsch
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Excellent! My only concern is that the "evergreen ivy" is hedera helix which is a nasty invasive where I am.

We have lots of hops experimenters here and I 'll find some pictures. It dies back completely in winter and has a narrow band straight up growth habit. For that reason it gives scant wall coverage. On the other hand, beer! Hops is a psychoactive herb classified as a soporific.
 
Katie Bretsch
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http://permaculturenews.org/2015/01/14/up-the-wall-pt-1-vertical-interventions-in-the-concrete-jungle/

Came across this article which illustrates a run at wall cooling where pavement breaking isn't feasible. Very creative design using minimal and /or scrap material.
 
Katie Bretsch
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More observations to report : A robustly wall covering Virgin Vine, aka Boston Ivy, needs only a very small patch of broken pavement to thrive without much water after it's established. Like the wine grape it is bred from (or was it vice-versa?) it sends down a tap root that can go 60' deep, so doesn't need much soil surface area held open.

For this reason it is a good choice where sidewalk goes right up to the wall. The opening one would need to break could be as small as 12" x 8" in my observations.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Katie,

Could you share the source of cited literature, or experience with finding a plant with a 60' vertical tap root. There does seem to be some 'strange specimens' with very long tap roots often described, yet in most field examinations these root systems run only horizontally yet seldom go down further than 2 to 3 meters at most with the average on most species only being about .25 to .75 meters.

I am always looking for exceptions to this rule, and the Boston Ivy I have experience has never had any root structure beyond about 0.5 meters...

They really are a hardy lot, and one reason as an invasive they can be a real challenge to eradicate and/or control...Yet another reason ecologically they are frowned upon...

Regards,

j
 
Katie Bretsch
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Mmmmm... If it is invasive, then I dispute that what you've got is a nursery variety of parthenocissus tricuspidata. That is my favorite reason to use the European common name of "virgin vine" rather than "Boston ivy". In the US there is too much confusion in common identification of landscape ivies.

If virgin vine were invasive, we would see it here in the marine NW of N America, and we don't. I can also tell you from personal testing that it is hard to get going as it is very sensitive to drying out in its first year or two.

I know there is a guy who claims to have found a self-propagated patch of it , but I dispute that what he's got is a nursery variety of parthenocissus tricuspidata. I asked his cooperation to let me come see for myself and he quit responding to my email. I consider it unproven.
 
Katie Bretsch
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http://inhabitat.com/green-box-act_romegialli-transforms-a-rustic-shed-into-a-living-plant-wrapped-oasis/


Here's a great article on vine covered buildings with gorgeous pictures. This is what I imagine us doing with existing building stock. So easy and so beneficial!
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hello Katie,

Thank you for the photo link to more vine covered architecture...

Mmmmm... If it is invasive, then I dispute that what you've got is a nursery variety of parthenocissus tricuspidata. That is my favorite reason to use the European common name of "virgin vine" rather than "Boston ivy". In the US there is too much confusion in common identification of landscape ivies.


Parthenocissus tricuspidata, as far as I know and have ever been able to determine from literature and speaking with others about invasives is that this species originates in Asia...

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper) though native can also be called invasive yet more germane to this practice of covering buildings. I agree with others that there are many native species to choose from that are more applicable perhaps.

I still have questions about the 60 foot tape roots? Can't find anything about that...?
 
Katie Bretsch
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http://www.fassadengruen.de/eng/uw/climbing_plants/uw/boston_ivy/boston_ivy.htm

Here's a German page with more wonderful pictures.
 
Katie Bretsch
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I'm looking for the tap root reference. It is a grape with very small fruits but similar habit. The deep tap root is characteristic of the grapes.

Will dispute the claim of invasiveness until I see an example for myself. The cinquifolia is less vigorous and not able to cover such a large wall area as the tricuspidata. Lots of desirable plants come from Asia. Using parthenocissus tricuspidata for wall greening is a traditional practice which I'll argue needs to be re-invigorated, IMHO.

 
Katie Bretsch
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Parthenocissus quinquefolia. Bah! Pardon sloppy spelling!
 
Michael Longfield
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Cool links. Although the german site says "Boston Ivy can cause significant damage to buildings! In parts the plant grows in a light-shunning way, and, as the shoots increase their stem girth, can blast apart building elements, block roller-shutter boxes and lift roof shingles. Insufficient removal of foliage may also block roof gutters. A frequently asked question during the restoration of a façade is how to deal with the remaining adhesive roots of torn-off plants: the only solution is to burn them off / torch them and then repaint the wall!"

Which discourages me. I hope they are wrong and you are right, because I really wanted to try this plant out in spring. Will need to do more research. hmm :/
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi Katie...don't worry too much about spelling, we all make mistakes there...

About 60 percent of grapevine roots sit in the top 24 inches of soil...some can grow more 20 feet deep...some studies suggest that the roots can spread as far as 33 feet.
This was the best I could find as far as the tap root topic, though I am still looking.

I did discovers some studies of "Deep-rooted Plants Have Much Greater Impact On Climate Than Experts Thought" with some less common varieties storing water as deep as 35 feet.

Will dispute the claim of invasiveness until I see an example for myself.


There really is no dispute. By definition, if an organism, be it plant or animal is not native to an area or biome...it is considered an invasive.

Parthenocissus tricuspidata (aka Japanese Ivy, Grape Ivy, Boston Ivy) is a flowering plant within the family (Vitaceae) native to Asian environments of Eastern China, Korea, and Japan. Ergo, this species in North America is an invasive and not recommend within the typical guidelines understood for permaculture or general practices of ecology.

The quinquefolia is less vigorous and not able to cover such a large wall area as the tricuspidata.


This species too, is considered by many to be an invasive as it has spread way outside its indigenous range, yet I would consider perhaps this species is more tolerable than a foreign species.

As for vigor in growth being less than others, I would suggest that is a very subjective view, since the largest vine infestation I have had to manage in a professional capacity (or ever discussed with other Arborists) has been either Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper) or the Pueraria ssp group (Kudzu.) Both of these far out compete and overrun Parthenocissus tricuspidata in every case I have observed them growing together. I am sure there may be exceptions, but would question that ever being the rule from my experience removing all three species.

Lots of desirable plants come from Asia. Using parthenocissus tricuspidata for wall greening is a traditional practice which I'll argue needs to be re-invigorated, IMHO.


I must really stress here, that whether someone "likes" or finds "desirable" a species of anything does not warrant is conscious spread of that species to unfamiliar or non-native biomes...This is an extremely bad practice, and not in good standing with the premise of ecology or permaculture...Which is a focus of this forum.

I really do like vines on architecture...I will not condone "bad practices" in horticulture, and ecology to promote it...
 
Katie Bretsch
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Glad the tap root question got raised because it got me to find this interesting Chinese paper specifically on the low water performance of parthenocissus tricuspidata and nutrients utilization as they serve the use of this plant for urban cooling, air quality by building clothing, covering walls, etc.

Conclusion is that it is very suitable. Performs well in low water conditions. Uses nutrients well. So, all together, a low input plant for urban cooling and air quality.

http://ejournal.sinica.edu.tw/bbas/content/2010/2/Bot512-03.pdf. Chinese sci paper spec on low water tolerance and suitability for urban cooling / air cleeaning, flatwork greening.
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Michael Longfield wrote:... the german site says "Boston Ivy can cause significant damage to buildings!... their stem girth, can blast apart building elements, block roller-shutter boxes and lift roof shingles. Insufficient removal of foliage may also block roof gutters. A frequently asked question during the restoration of a façade is how to deal with the remaining adhesive roots of torn-off plants: the only solution is to burn them off / torch them and then repaint the wall!"


Hi Michael,

As you can tell from above I like and promote vines on architecture, and also design and build architecture. I don't condone this species where it is not native and as for "blasting apart" of buildings elements, that is a very gross and exaggerated view often by folks that are doing way more "assuming" than actual experience in understanding and knowing.

Can some species make a mess of things if not properly trained and groomed...absolutely...They do not "blow apart" anything as plants in general "encapsulate" they do not "push, or pull" with few exceptions.

Regards,

j
 
Katie Bretsch
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Mmmm...You have educated me well. Thank you for taking the time and effort to get all the details out for me on this.

I have used "exotic" for out-of-home range plantsand "invasive" for bad behavior like escaping and self-propagating. So, it is good to know that people here use "invasive" for both.

I think this makes me not a Permie. But, I 'll keep my love for parthenocissus tricuspidata dialed down here. I'm still not going to believe that it is an escape hazard until I see it for myself. The concept of vines for cooling existing structures is too valuable to be lost in a debate over the choice of vine.

One of the articles I found cited a California native grape with petite fruits. That should be Permie-acceptable, no? If it behaved in other good ways as p3, it could be a great answer.

A friend has a regular juice grape growing over his worksp, including the roof. I would be hesitant because the un-picked fruit woulddraw rats.
 
Katie Bretsch
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Question: do Permies only grow native grapes?
 
Katie Bretsch
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Vitis riparia

Vitis riparia. Another wild grape native to the US middle west. Very similar in appearance and habit to p3.

This would be Permie-acceptable in its home range, no?
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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This would be a great species where it is indigenous...
 
Michael Longfield
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Katie, permies do NOT only grow native species. Permies often love, appreciate, and utilize "invasive species". We often have to defend this position and get a lot of crap from native plant enthusiasts. I don't think its fair that Jay threw out the "that's not permaculture" card.

Here is a recent article by Paul Wheaton (the creator of these forums), about the dark side of native plant enthusiasm. He also explains why permaculturists often like so called invasives.

https://paulwheaton12.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/the-dark-side-of-native-plant-enthusiasm/
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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I don't think its fair that Jay threw out the "that's not permaculture" card.


Hi Michael,

That was a good redirect for me to clarify my position...thanks for sharing it...

I more than agree...folks (me included) do not grow just "native species." Paul W. does speak about a "continuum" of permaculture and where each of us fits in, and/or tries to fit in the best we are able. This is what makes Permies.com, and the folks involved here, such a wonderful place...There is room for every voice and opinion (within reason) as long as it is shared "nicely."

I am not sure personally I would say I have ever loved and invasive species...other than perhaps some of the bamboos......but I do restrain myself from putting them in any location where they can go ferrell.

I am a "native plant enthusiasts," I will own that label with pride, but I am not completely down that rabbit hole either, as there are degrees (continuum?) of acceptance for non-natives. So I will try to explain it using another very "touchy subject" with folks...CATS!

I love cats...I used to own more cats than I wanted to just to save the poor little waifs I found in the Barns I work on...

I don't let my cats (a non-native species) go lose or unattended from me....They DO NOT run ferrell hunting and killing anything they would like to, as they are not part of the biome I have placed them in...There are native species for that. Neither do I condone folks that let their cats run free to do all manner of crazy that cats like to do...

I see plants the same way...If I have a species I can control easily enough not to worry about it...going ferrell...I will plant it and enjoy the fruits (physical and metaphysical) of those labors. However, if it is a species that can (and does) get spread by to many vectors (i.e. birds, wind, rhizome, etc.) then I do not subject a biome to those risks...nor should I...as the risks are just too great...

Parthenocissus tricuspidata (aka Japanese Ivy, Grape Ivy, Boston Ivy) is one of those species...and I have spent too many countless hours of my life...from Chicago to Boston...helping folks try to "beat it back" from taking over an area...Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States

This is of course a philosophical debate that Ecologist, Permaculturists, and related (and will) continue to debate. As Paul W. has pointed out numerous times...there is a continuum and each of us must find our place along it. Nevertheless, just like GMO, industrial pesticides-herbicides, and other "heavy hitters" I will always try to suggest that this is not something that we should probably promote...
 
Katie Bretsch
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Here's a link to some use of vines for cooling in Australia. I've got a Pinterest board with vine images this is one of.

http://pinterest.com/pin/A_zTEAAQQF4CJ6NXWDkAAAA/
 
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