Vines and Other Climbing Plants



Gourds are members of the family that includes Squashes, Pumpkin, Courgettes, Cucumbers and Melons, but it is only the ornamental varieties that are normally thought of as Gourds. Some family members like Cucumbers, (See Link) Melons (See Link) and Gourds will happily climb, but most Curcurbitacaea prefer to trail. Courgettes and Squashes have been bred over the years to be more compact whereas pumpkins mostly grow on longer vines (as much as 15-30 feet) that can be trained up support with the smaller growing varieties being more suitable due to the large weight that most types can achieve. The ornamental and inedible Gourds tend to be smaller fruiting and so are also suitable to be grown as vines.

The whole Curcurbitacaea family prefer rich, moist soil and they are all susceptible to frost with some, especially Melons and Cucumbers, needing even warmer conditions such as a greenhouse to grow successfully. As with many types of plant some varieties have been bred to overcome age-old problems and diseases that have traditionally blighted them. The Curcurbitacaea family have susceptibility to one such problem and that is Cucumber Mosaic Virus. When buying seed, or young plants, they should be labelled as to whether that particular variety is resistant, or not. 

Ornamental Gourds have been grown for thousands of years by man, not just for their decorative value, but also their functional. For early man, a dried Gourd that had been hollowed out made a simple container that would even hold water. Many societies still use them as containers today and even in the West they are marketed as “Natural,” containers for the environmentally conscious. Being a natural product they serve well as containers for bird feed and the like.

Not only do Gourds grow with many colours and patterns that can make a bowl full of them look very attractive in a house as an ornamental display, but they do come in a range of shapes as well. Some types have been bred from the more traditional bottle shape to look like snakes and even swans. Another variety called Luffa Aegyptiaca, or commonly called, The Dishrag Gourd,” has a long fibrous skeleton that when properly cleaned and dried, can be used as an environmental friendly scouring pad.

Whatever the variety of ornamental Gourd that is grown they are all best left on the vines to dry naturally until the plants are completely dead and dried up. The Gourds should then be cut off with a short piece of stalk still attached as this will help to prevent rotting. After they have been dried for a few weeks they can be waxed, or even varnished to preserve them for even longer.

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