Vines in planters?

(Question)

Hi!
I am trying to desperately add some privacy to our backyard along our fence line. There is very little space between the retaining wall and the fence line so, unless we find a way of building a much thinner retaining wall, all i can consider as an option are planters. I originally thought about fargesia robusta, as it would grow tall and thin quite rapidly, but our winters will destroy it. So now im thinking maybe a vine? Would they do well in containers over the winter?
Thin, tall, and quick are what im looking for. Any ideas?
Thank you so much in advance for any advice you mught have!!!!!! I really appreciate it

(Answer)

Hi Ana,

The planters sounds like a great solution to your privacy problem and there are a few vines that would appear to meet your needs.

I found an article: Six Vines that Grow Well in Containers by Bill Marken, Suzanne DeJohn, and The Editors of the National Gardening Association from Container Gardening For Dummies, 2nd Edition http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/six-vines-that-grow-well-in-containers.html, quite relevant to your question, as summarized and edited for Toronto conditions below:

While many perennial vines get too big too quickly to make them practical for containers, here are few that are more manageable.

Clematis: The most spectacular clematis are also the best suited to containers, with a trellis. These are the deciduous hybrids with the beautiful, huge, six-petaled flowers in blue, purple, red, and many other shades. The vines can climb as high as 20 feet, [e.g. Clematis Armandi which grows to 10-15 ft. high by 6-10 ft. wide, per Gardening Manual for Canada editor: Trevor Cole]

Provide full sun or part shade. Conventional wisdom says to put the plant in a place where the container is in shade and the uppermost growth is in the sun if you can find such a location: The idea is to keep the roots cool and the flower buds exposed to light. Most are hardy in zones 4 to 9. You may need to move clematis into a protected spot for the winter.

N.B. Clematis is also fast growing.

English ivy: English ivy is easy and can be used in a container where it can climb up a trellis. [e.g. Hedera Colchia ‘Sulphur Heart’ has variegated foliage and grows to 30ft (10m), per Gardening Manual for Canada editor: Trevor Cole.]

Provide part or full shade, or even full sun in cool climates. Keep the soil moist. Pinch young plants to encourage bushy growth. English ivy is hardy in zones 5 or 6 to 9.

Wisteria: While many wisteria grow quickly into enormous plants (e.g.  Chinese wisteria 28 ft. or more), consider the more manageable and well-behaved native species, American wisteria (W. frutescens) [Grows to a height of15.00 to 30.00 feet and spread of 4.00 to 8.00 feet, per http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=d239].

Train it on a trellis or frame. The plant produces the familiar clusters of purple-blue or white blossoms. Provide full sun and a strong support. Wisteria is hardy in zones 6 to 9.

Concerning your question on the suitability of fargesia robusta , this partial sun bamboo will grow in clumps (making it suitable for containers) to as high as 16 feet, some reaching their maximum height in one growing season, with a hardiness to -18C or zero F, according to the American Bamboo Society http://bamboo.org. Unfortunately, as you point out, this makes it unsuitable for the GTA climate. However, I did notice a discussion on this issue from the UBC Botanical Garden Forums where a contributor points out that he has been overwintering bamboo outside all winter and is in zone 6b, the same as some parts of Toronto. He protects the pot from freezing by surrounding it with mulch, bubble-wrap, rock or anything that will keep it from freezing, http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=50761. Of course, the uncertainty of successful results could be a costly effort both in terms of your time, the growing period lost and money.

I hope this helps you in determining how to provide privacy in your yard.