What’s the first thing you see when you look at this picture? Yeah, me too. When the air conditioner pooped out a few years ago, we had this beast installed. The HVAC guy talked about the efficiency of the unit and how much money we’d be saving. And all I could think about was that I was going to have to dig up the entire area to make room for this monstrosity. I knew it was going to be big, just not THAT big.
I couldn’t stand the sight of the thing until I figured out how to camouflage it, on a budget of course. Hyacinth bean vine saved my garden. That sounds so dramatic but it’s effectiveness for hiding ugly things was equally as dramatic. And I did it with a handful of beans!
Same garden, different time of year and you can’t see the air conditioner.
See the white sticker on the lower third section of the photo? That’s it. Vine’s, especially hyacinth bean, are an invaluable way to camouflage eyesores. I could have used clematis and other perennial vines but that would have taken more money and likely several years to cover this area. I wanted it hidden now and hyacinth bean vine was the way to go. Since it’s an annual, it had the two key attributes I was looking for – fast growth and lots of flowers. Even better, I already had the seeds which I harvested from some vines I grew in containers on the patio the year before.
Since it’s an air conditioner, there were a few things I had to keep in mind – air flow and accessibility. The trellises were perfect because I could remove them if the air conditioner needed to be serviced. I also allowed about 30 inches between the unit and the trellises for good air flow. I bought five inexpensive trellises from Costco (they still have them if you’re interested); their long 12-inch tines were important because I wanted to be sure they’d anchor deep enough in the soil and not fall over in the slightest breeze. They’ve stood firm for a year and I haven’t had to mess with them.
I allowed for a few inches between the trellises to prevent the metal from rubbing together and rusting. For extra stability, I secured each trellis to its neighbor with zip ties that have kept everything in line.
The beauty of hyacinth bean is that you can start them indoors or direct sow them. I’ve done both. You get the same result, but starting them indoors gives you a quicker return on investment, which really isn’t much of an investment when the bean does all the work! This is a hot, dry, full sun garden, a perfect place for hyacinth bean. In late May, I planted two beans per 20″-wide trellis. So 10 little beans was all it took to cover the air conditioner.
By early July, they were flowering and continued to do so through August. The flowers were followed by the most beautiful seed pods that I let dry on the vine and harvested for next year’s garden. I haven’t had to buy hyacinth bean vine seeds since my original purchase in 2016!