Courtesy Stephanie Staton
Climbing, aka pole, beans make great edible landscape additions. With brilliantly-colored flowers and pods, these plants provide a season’s worth of beauty and flavor. Most varieties grow up to 10 feet tall. Sow seeds directly into the garden after the danger of frost has passed. (A soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0 is required.)
Rattlesnake Pole is an heirloom variety bearing purple blossoms and long, green pods streaked with purple, and Red Noodle is a Chinese yard-long variety with burgundy-colored pods reaching up to 24 inches in length. These varieties are sweetly flavored and require 85 days to reach maturity. Gita is another yard-long variety with a slightly shorter growing season and is perfect for southern gardeners. Scarlet runner beans have bright-red flowers (a favorite of hummingbirds) and pods that are edible when young, although some sources suggest cooking them to be safe. A perennial in the South, this bean is typically grown as an annual. The starchy roots produced below ground are a food staple in Central America.
About the Author: Horticulturist Jessica Walliser dreams of growing Eastern Prince, a fruit-bearing magnolia vine, in her zone-6 garden. She is co-host of KDKA radio’s The Organic Gardeners in Pittsburgh and author of several gardening books, including Grow Organic (St. Lynn’s Press, 2007) and Good Bug Bad Bug (St. Lynn’s Press, 2008).