The glory of climbers
Climbing plants will bring you masses of flowers, lush foliage and vertical interest, all on a small footprint – I heard one gardener say that you could grow twenty climbers on a large balcony! What’s more they are long lived and will bring years of enjoyment. Also, did you know that their foliage filters the air? Just think of your very own air-purifier right outside your window. Added to all these benefits they provide habitat for beneficial insects and friendly garden birds. There’s a stunning range to choose from – even climbing hydrangeas that will thrive on a north-facing wall. If foliage alone is what you want, look out for ivy (Hedera) or Virginia creeper (Pathenocissus).
Let’s begin our adventure by looking at a selection of climbing plants, each of which can bring cascades of colour to your garden through the summer months. Abundant, beautiful flowers and an interesting way of growing are only part of the story. Climbers are also really handy for disguising unsightly features in the garden and are a brilliant choice in today’s smaller gardens. The range is exciting too, with colours and preferences to suit every preference and garden.
Some climbing hydrangeas, for example Hydrangea anomala ‘petiolaris,’ are superbly adapted to life in shady, otherwise inhospitable parts of the garden. ‘Petioloaris’ will happily grow along walls and fences and develops masses of showy, lacy white flowerheads in spring and summer. An excellent choice if you are looking to bring beauty to a ‘problem corner’.
Clematis is a garden classic and it’s easy to see why. Yellow, pink, red, white and blue flowers, all are possibilities. Clematis ‘Abundance’ is a great choice with its wine-red flowers and light green leaves. ‘Bill MacKenzie’, with its bell-shaped, yellow flowers is another winner.
Lonicera, or honeysuckle, is quite simply, a defining summer garden plant. Beautiful flowers, many of which have a fragrance that is so evocative and romantic that it stops you in your tracks and plenty of vigorous, hardy cultivars make this a favourite with gardeners everywhere. Look out for Lonicera x brownii ‘Dropmore scarlet’ if you want flowers over a long period in summer. For a very fragrant variety, Lonicera x americana is ideal.
Most climbers need to be trained against walls (using trellises), up fences or on other plants (trees, tall shrubs). Climbing hydrangea needs very little help because its tendrils are lined with minute suction pads. Some varieties of Clematisand Lonicera can reach 7m in height, but there are many in the 2-4m size range and some smaller still. Consider Clematis ‘Arabella’ with its deep mauve flowers or Clematis montana‘Sunrise’ with it’s pink flowers if you are looking for smaller plants, for example to grow in containers.
Moist, well drained, fertile soil is perfect for any of this selection. Work in compost when you plant to help drainage and fertility. Lonicera and Clematisthrive in sun or partial shade. Pruning will help establish strong plants, check when you buy how to prune the climbers you’ve chosen.
There is something about the energy and confidence of climbers that brings a real sense of fun to any garden. Maybe it’s connected with Jack and his magic beans? Whatever the reason, work with the vertical dimension and enjoy your garden to the full with climbers.