Last year Spring was unusual, very dry for a long spell then some late frost when tender plants got hit. But it meant that a few things did well such as roses. In early June, Rose Constance Spry was flowering early on our south facing wall. It’s beautiful delicate pink heads bobbing about outside my kitchen window. It’s the first “English Rose” introduced by David Austin and although it doesn’t repeat, the show it puts on in its first flush is wonderful.
Now is the time to choose a suitable climber for the right spot. The starting point is deciding what job you want the climber to do. Do you want it to screen out, draw attention, highlight, twine or cling to something?
Designers use climbers on fences and walls to hide boundaries and make the garden look bigger. Climbers give us vertical interest but they can also hide ugliness. Honeysuckles can screen our oil tanks and our multitude of dustbins. They can soften corners but they can also be used in trees on arches and arbors. They can even be feature plants in formal gardens on a pyramid or obelisk frame.
Often my clients will tell me they have bought a climber but “it hasn’t done much”. Often this is because it’s the wrong climber in the wrong spot. Some climbers welcome sun, others prefer shade and do well on north facing walls. Most clematis like full sun. But Hydrangea petiolaris thrives in shade.
Climbers belong into different groups some are self-clingers such as verginia creeper (Parthenocissus), Ivies (Hedera) and Trumpet Vine (Campsis) need some initial support to get going but little attention thereafter. But be careful some can get carried away, so be aware how big and vigorous these plants can be once established before you plant them.
Others are twiners that need supports such, as clematis and vines (Vitis) and honeysuckles (Lonicera) are better not directly on the wall. One way around this is to plant a rose with a clematis right next to it and when the rose is over the clematis will have its day or the other way round depending on what varieties you choose. Try to pick complimentary colours such as purple and pink. And you don’t have to restrict roses to the south facing situations – Rose Veilchenblau sometimes called ‘The Blue Rose’ grows vigourously next to our climbing rose Iceberg on our north facing walls.
Don’t forget climbers and wall shrubs in winter which can bring much joy when other plants are dormant such as winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum), pyracantha or ever green variegated Euonymous. These are often free standing or sprawlers which will probably need some supports. Use vine eyes and wire spaced across the wall – this way the climber will be the focus not the trellis behind it. Also, it allows healthy air circulation round the plant. Finally, if you peg down a climber using one foot high stakes it will act as a perfect ground cover on a steep bank for instance.
Annual climbers such as sweet peas and passion flowers can be used to add in special prettiness and scent at certain times of the year.
There is infinite variety and options out there so take a visit to your local garden centre and plant away. And if you need help or have something special to share do get in touch.