Climbing plants

Date
Published in
Various local newspapers (UK)
Written by
Kim Wilde

Having established my own garden from a bare patch of land, I would now never consider designing a garden without including a selection of climbing plants, as they are essential for providing height and adding interest to areas that would otherwise be bare and uninteresting. Climbing Plants are used to cover fences, walls, trellis and other unsightly structures. In a new garden they can be used to quickly soften new boundaries, as well as providing much needed shelter and homes for wildlife.

Climbers are also good for adding height and interest to a border, if grown over a freestanding support, such as an obelisk. In some cases they can even be grown across the ground to provide effective ground cover. When considering choosing a suitable climbing plant for your own garden, pay particular attention to the eventual height and spread of each plant, because some climbers can grow to immense heights and therefore would quickly outgrow a small garden.

Another important factor, especially when growing plants on a wall or fence is to identify in which direction the wall or fence is facing. This is because, many plants will not survive or flourish on a North or East-facing situation, due to severe winter weather conditions. An enormously popular climbing plant is the Clematis, which traditionally were grown in cottage gardens. Today there are hundreds of varieties available in a wealth of colours and flower types, which are suitable for any aspect.

To cover a large area in a North or East-facing situation, an ideal choice would be Clematis Montana, which gives a wonderful display of pink and white flowers in April or May. However, the majority of Clematis varieties love to be in sun and therefore are best grown in a South or West facing position. Popular varieties include the large flowered hybrids such as Clematis 'Nelly Moser' (pink flowers with a carmine bar), Clematis jackmanii 'Superba' (violet purple flowers) or Clematis 'Ville de Lyon' (rich red flowers).

Another gardener's favourite is the honeysuckle, which is well known for its glorious heady perfumed flowers in summer. Good varieties to choose are Lonicera Belgica (red, purple flowers) or Lonicera Serotina (yellow, red flowers). Honeysuckle is great for rambling over a pergola or arch or growing on a South or West-facing wall.

One of the most admired climbing plants of all is the Wisteria, which will quickly cover south facing walls, pergolas, sheds and quite tall trees. It's beautiful sweetly scented, mauve, purple or white flowers are produced in May. You should note however that it could take a number of years after planting for a new Wisteria to bear flowers, so this plant is for the patient gardener.

Other popular climbing plants include the summer flowering Jasmine (Jasminum officinale) with its sweetly scented white flowers in summer, ideal for a south facing situation, Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) which is mainly grown for its foliage which turns to a wonderful rich scarlet in autumn and not forgetting the many varieties of Ivy (Hedera) which again are grown for their stunning evergreen foliage. Both Virginia Creeper and Ivy are good for a North or East-facing position.