My Favorite Climbing Plants
Beautiful Flowering Climbing Plants
Flowering climbing plants are among my all-time favourites in the garden.
I've grown them up walls and fences as well as through shrubs and trees.
They soften and brighten the look of walls and fences. If your fences or walls are low, put trellis on top so climbers can give height and vertical interest to the garden. By growing them higher, you get more flowering space and privacy in your yard.
In one of my gardens I inherited a very boring evergreen shrub. I used it for a beautiful, fragrant honeysuckle (lonicera) which grew through and over it. It was very close to French doors at the back of the house and so we had the benefit of seeing lovely honeysuckle against the dark green conifer together with the scent of the flowers coming into the room.
Many people use climbers along the outside walls of their houses and they can be very effective in improving the appearance of a home.
Clematis Montana - A Very Vigorous Grower
Confused about which clematis to grow? This book will help you choose the right one for your garden.
Clematis - A Flower for Every Colour Scheme
The clematis has many varieties. The flowers come in all sizes and colours and you can usually find one to suit any soil and conditions. Some varieties are evergreen and others deciduous. There are the relatively small and simple flowers of the vigorous Clematis Montana shown here, then look at the first picture on the page showing Clematis 'Souvenir du Capitaine Thuilleaux'. You could be forgiven for not realising they were related.
You have to avoid clematis montana in some positions as it can spread extremely fast. It grows thick and is sometimes given the name of the 'mile a minute' clematis because it grows so quickly. Cut it back hard when it spreads too far or grows too thick. It's almost impossible to kill with hard pruning - I know this from the experience of hacking one back with gay abandon twice every year until we moved. It just laughed at me and carried on growing.
Other varieties need a gentler approach and more nurturing. When you buy a clematis, check the conditions it likes and when it needs pruning.
One added bonus with many varieties is, that when the flowers finish, you get an 'old man's beard' effect from the seedheads - see the picture below.
This does what it says on the cover - helps you find a clematis that will grow well in a small space. It concentrates on new varieties that don't take over but also give beautiful flowers.
Hydrangea Anomala and Petiolaris
These two species aren't the same as the more familiar shrub hydrangea which has pink or blue flowers depending on whether your soil is acid or alkali. These are two species of climbing hydrangea. The one pictured here is Hydrangea Petiolaris.
It will grow up a tree or wall which is where I grew one. Mine grew about 6ft in five years after I bought it. Although experts say it prefers acidic conditions, I grew mine successfully in an alkali soil. Don't worry if it doesn't do much for the first year or two, it can take that long to become established.
I like it for its bright green foliage and pretty, restrained clusters of white flowers, quite a contrast to the showy clematis.
Lathyrus - Sweetpeas
I have always loved sweetpeas (Lathyrus), ever since I was a little girl and allowed to cut them from the garden to put in vases indoors. I love their perfume, colours and their appearance when growing in the garden or the way cut sweetpeas brighten any room.
The most popular varieties are annuals and they like well drained and manured soil. They aren't frost hardy so here in the UK the seeds are sown under cover in the early spring. Because they have a long root, an ideal way to plant them is in the cardboard tubes from used toilet rolls. Stand these up in a seed tray and when you are ready to plant them out, you can put the tube and seedling straight in the ground as the cardboard will rot away. This means minimum root disturbance so your plants should get off to a good start.
Young Lathyrus are a popular meal for snails and slugs so you need to protect them preferably with organic methods.
When your sweetpeas come into flower, keep cutting them to bring indoors because the more you cut the flowers, the more will grow. Don't you just love plants that keep on giving?
This book describes 115 climbers with good advice on cultivation
Guide to Climbing Plants - Want to learn more about climbers?
I can only cover a small selection of climbing plants on this page.
There are so many more that bring beauty to gardens and joy to the hearts of the people that see them.
This guide to climbers will give you more information and a much bigger range of plants available.
Rambling or Climbing Roses
On the side wall of our last house, we inherited a beautiful white climbing rose. Judging by its original main stem, it was very old but it grew new stems and flowered profusely every year. This meant we spent a lot of time looking after it. We tied in new stems, cut out old ones, kept deadheading it and, of course, we had to feed it. Every spring we gave it a special treat - a good dose of well-rotted horse manure.
In the 19th century, climbing and rambling roses were probably at their most popular. Now they are ideal for decorating a pergolas, arches, old trees or a house wall.
Climbers have much less supple stems than ramblers and they have smaller trusses of flowers but the individual blooms are usually larger, 3 to 5 inches in diameter. Pruning is easier too because the flowers are borne on mature rather than new wood. Many varieties also have repeat flushes of flowers during the summer.
Ramblers have long supple stems but are prone to mildew and only flower for a short period in June and July. They are more suitable for pergolas and arches rather than for growing against walls as the lack of air circulation makes mildew more likely. The flowers grow in large trusses are are about 2 inches in diameter.
How to Prune Climbing Roses
Pruning roses can seem a bit intimidating if you haven't done it before but this video shows you how to cope with pruning your climbing roses.
Wisteria - Beautiful and Fragrant
Wisteria are grown for their fountains of hanging, fragrant flowers. They are most often seen grown against the walls of old houses although people do grow them on pergolas and other structures.
They will grow in most soils but poorer soils should be prepared with plenty of well rotted manure. Wisteria needs protection from cold winds and the flower buds can be damaged by frost. Nothing is ever easy, is it?
I've never grown a wisteria although I have wanted to do so. We didn't have anywhere suitable for one in our first garden after we left London. In our second one, we had the same problem. The wall with the climbing rose would have been ideal for a wisteria but we couldn't destroy that beautiful old rose.
A Beautiful Tour Through Wisteria
© 2009 Carol Fisher