‘Dear Dr. Kris,
I read your reply to a query in the Bali Advertiser. I’m also wanting to know the name of this vine which hangs down. I attach two photos. I don’t think it is any of your suggestions. I’ve never seen it flower. I live in Thailand and want to plant it so that it will hang down and screen some rooms from the sun. Would be grateful for a reply if you know what it is.
Vines, climbers and creepers are versatile plants great for screening unsightly areas of the garden, beautifying bare walls, covering fences and even for shading windows and cooling the home. I love the photo that you sent in, it’s a beautiful plant for growing vertically or hanging over structures. You were so so close to identifying the common name yourself without even knowing it! It really must have been right on the tip of your tongue.
You say that you would like to grow the plant so that it will hang down and screen rooms from the sun, in effect a ‘green curtain’ of sorts yes..? Well it just so happens that the exact plant you have identified is….(drum roll please)
The Curtain Creeper
Yes the curtain creeper, unbelievable isn’t it! You’ve probably searched far and wide for the answer and there it was staring you right in the face the whole time, I hate it when that happens but am also relieved when I finally have the answer. The curtain creeper (common name) is the species Tarlmounia elliptica but also goes by the names Vernonia elliptica and Vernonia elaeagnifolia just to confuse things a little. The hanging foliage forms a curtain, hence the name. Other common names include Rangoon creeper, vernonia creeper, and parda bel. In Indonesia it is known as tanaman lee kwan yew.
It is native to Burma and Thailand, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it, it is also commonly used in villa/hotel gardens throughout Bali and Indonesia. Whether in Thailand or Bali anyone should easily be able to find it. Common names may differ so the best solution is to take a cutting to a local nursery, any nurseryman worth his/her salt should easily be able to identify it for you.
The curtain creeper is both versatile and vigorous, that’s why it’s a mainstay plant of many landscapers within the vertical gardening world. It will stand alone with minimal human intervention but will grow thicker with annual pruning. It will grow well in an average soil which is a plus, but it’s best feature is that it just looks so good cascading down structures.
Left on its own the vine can grow up to 30 feet or 10 metres in length. The stems will climb up, over and then cascade beautifully down any wall or structure. It has small wispy ‘off-white’ flowers that appear in bunches but primarily it is a foliage plant grown for its desirable green curtain, surely the name already gave it away. ‘Green curtains’ grown for effect are a visually pleasing ever evolving work of art, shadows and shapes cast on internal spaces will change throughout the day as the sun traverses and over time as the plant grows.
The garden is outside but the effect comes inside. They also have the benefit of screening out the sun if heat is an issue. Creative gardeners use vines, climbers and creepers to enhance the beauty of their garden and surrounding structures, enclosing spaces, enhancing privacy or simply just grown over walls to enhance the external look of a property. They can also be used as features and focal points planted in individual hanging baskets with foliage overflowing, cascading down to ground level.
They are very attractive when grown from above or free falling rendering a waterfall effect or green curtain, and make a great addition to an internal courtyard lining pathways with foliage seemingly flowing down from the sky. But it doesn’t end there, the benefits go further. Green walls and curtains insulate the home creating an overall cooler environment, dampen noise and simply add to an overall tranquil ambience. If you bring the vertical garden inside you will also freshen and purify the air within your home. With the vertical or hanging garden you get both functionality and aesthetic beauty!
The green curtain is an environmentally responsible decision, so you can also feel ‘smug’ about yourself at the same time. In warm climates it will block sunlight lowering room temperatures, reducing the reliance on AC, saving on power bills and reducing C02 emissions.
The curtain creeper is suitable for a location where it can fill in a large space, and should not be planted where it is likely to become a nuisance due to its wild vigorous nature. It is suited to growing in large pots and planters which is advisable if you wish to contain it, otherwise plant it in the ground and watch it run. Once it takes root it will be difficult to eradicate. This widely cultivated plant often forms rampant infestations whether in the wild or even in urban areas on unkempt lots.
The overall movement of ‘green architecture’ in cities has the dual purpose of utility and aesthetics. Green buildings are popping up all over the place, with green walls and hanging gardens to take advantage of the insulation effect, being cooler in summer yet warmer in winter.
Taking it a step further, fruits and vegetables can also be incorporated into the mix so that you now have insulating walls of food. Passionfruit vines, chokos, cucumbers, rock melons, bitter melons, beans etc can easily be grown up walls or overhead so that fruit hangs down. Once you start looking into it, the possibilities are literally endless. Even unlikely candidates such as spinach, lettuce and other greens can be grown externally on modular green walls. It beats a dull grey wall hands down any day of the week. Vines, climbers and creepers or any sort of vertical greenery can transform a conglomeration of bricks into a beautiful living structure.
When I think of vertical gardens the first thing that comes to mind are the mysterious Hanging Gardens of Babylon which are fabled to have cascaded down from the famous city in times of antiquity. They were probably grown for both beauty and utility and it’s good to see that we are returning to our roots, even though it took a few thousand years, better late than never eh?
Copyright © 2018 Dr. Kris
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