CLIMBING plants will add a whole new dimension to your garden whether you’re looking to create a spectacular vertical display or have simply run out of space for planting at ground level, writes James Iles.
Positioned at the back of beds and borders, clambering up a wall or fence or even grown on an ornate archway, climbers can make a truly magnificent feature in your garden.
Like most plants there are perennial types as well as annuals and evergreens to choose from. You can choose them for scent (honeysuckles for example) or stunning displays (wisteria).
A neat trick is to combine annuals or perennials like nasturtiums or clematis with evergreen climbers like ivies, clematis or evergreen honeysuckles to create all-year-round interest.
Privacy and security
More than just a feature plant, climbers can do a practical job too.
Training them on to trellis-topped fences will add privacy while letting them scramble up an unsightly wall or building will disguise an eyesore or liven up some boring brickwork.
Vigorous ones like clematis montana, roses and vines will need their shoots tied in at regular intervals, otherwise they may smother other plants in the border.
Attempting to untangle the mess later is an unenviable task that may also result in some plant stems breaking.
Fix a wide-mesh wire net to walls and fences for vigorous climbers and tie them on to this. Lighter-growth plants are more suited to a dearer, decorative trellis as they will not completely hide it.
When and how to prune
When to prune your climbing plants is a conundrum often posed to gardeners as there are so many different types available.
Many climbers should have been pruned by now when they are less active to keep them tidy and, in some cases, prevent damage to properties.
These include wisteria, ornamental vines, Virginia creeper and Boston ivy and climbing hydrangea.
Wisterias will also need pruning in July when all the long new shoots should be cut back to five to six buds from the main stems. It is these shoots that are then shortened even more (to two or three buds) around January.
Late flowering clematis (Group 3 types) such as orientalis, texensis and viticella should have had their old growth pruned back before spring down to between nine and 18 inches from the ground, ideally back to just above a healthy bud.
It is still OK to plant new climbers now as most garden centre plants will be suitably tied in for sale.
The vigorous clematis montana will need pruning this month after flowering, especially in confined spaces.
Prune out the dead or diseased wood and any remaining unwanted stems as far back as you need to go.
This will in turn encourage strong new growth and more flowers next year.
Climbing roses will need to be pruned back from September (after all the flowers have faded).
Again remove all dead or diseased wood. Next, tie in any new shoots and, if necessary, remove entirely any old stems, pruning back to near ground level.
A small vineyard?
If you are looking for something a bit different or special from your climbing plants then why not go for a grape vine?
There are many suited to our climes, especially the white grape varieties.
They may need some frost protection and will enjoy a sunny, sheltered spot for good production.
Alternatively, try red grape vines in greenhouses or conservatories.
Before time you might be making your own wines and impressing your family and friends!
Grape vines need pruning in December when they are dormant or they will bleed sap, weakening the plant.
Cut back the season’s side shoots to two or three buds leaving the long stumpy main stems which can also be cut back if necessary.
Whatever your choice, you’ll soon be taking your garden up to another level!
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