Choosing climbers FAQs

The side wall of my house faces almost due north, and although it is not exposed to the wind it does not get any sun. Can you suggest some easy-to-grow climbers that would clothe it and not involve too much work?

Ivies (Hedera) will do well there: H. helix ‘Goldheart’, a small-leaved variety with a yellow blotch on each leaf, plus the two large-leaved variegated ones, H. canadensis ‘Variegata’ and H. colchica ‘Dentata Aurea’, will brighten the wall all the year round. Some climbing roses will also do well, including ‘Danse du Feu’ (’Spectacular’) ‘Golden Showers’, ‘Guinee’, and ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’. Other flowering climbers to go for include Hydrangea petiolaris, most of the clematises, and the winter and summer jasmines. Most vine-family creepers, such as Virginia creeper and boston ivy (both Parthenocissus), also make a good show.

The front of my house faces south, so it gets very sunny and warm and the soil is rather dry. I have tried honeysuckle there but it does not thrive. Is there anything that will put up with these conditions?

A south wall gives you a good opportunity to try out one or two slightly tender plants. The passion flower (Passiflora) will be ideal, as will the florist’s mimosa (Acacia dealbata) and Fremontia califomica, with its pretty, bright butter-yellow cups all summer long. Wisteria enjoys sun and warmth; and especially suited will be the ceanothuses native to California, in particular the sky-blue Ceanothus x ‘Gloire de Versailles’ and the deeper C. x ‘Topaz’. If you particularly want to grow honeysuckle I suggest you try one of the sun-tolerant varieties, such as Lonicera x brownii ‘Fuchsioides’.

My garage wall faces almost due east and gets a lot of cold wind. What climbers would put up with these conditions?

The vine family will make a brave show in the face of easterly gales, as will the common honeysuckles. The roses listed for north walls will make a good show and to these can be added ‘Etoile de Hollande’, ‘Gloire de Dijon’, ‘Mme Gregoire Staechelin’ (’Spanish Beauty’), and ‘Maigold’. The large cotoneasters, plus Cotoneaster horizontal, can also be tried, as can pyracanthas, especially Pyracantha X watereri. Varieties of chaenomeles should also thrive.

We have a west-facing wall alongside the patio where we like to sit out in the evenings. What climbers or wall shrubs could I put there which would be at their best in summer?

Roses are a good choice and come in a tremendously varied range of colours and scents. Clematis hybrid varieties flower in summer and autumn, among the best being ‘Hagley Hybrid’, ‘Jackmanii Superba’, ‘Mrs Cholmondeley’, and ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’. You could also try jasmines, especially Jasminum officinale, the common white jasmine, and also many honeysuckles. For something a little out of the ordinary I suggest you try the trumpet vines (Campsis), the potato vines (Solanum)—especially the beautiful white variety (S. jasminoides ‘Album’)—and annual climbers such as sweet peas (Lathyrus) and canary creeper (Tropaeolum peregrinum).

An old apple tree in my garden is no longer very productive, but it would make an attractive feature if I trained a climber through it. What should I choose?

Vigorous climbing roses are ideal. Clematises too, look very good in this situation, but avoid the most vigorous, such as Clematis montana. The smaller-flowered ones usually look better than the larger-flowered hybrids; try C. macropetala and C. orientalis. Other good plants to train through trees include the staff vine (Celastms orbiculatus, syn C. articulatus), with orange fruits in autumn and winter, and the wisterias.

I want to plant something scented to ramble over my front door. What can you suggest?

For winter I would go for Abeliophyllum distichum, with its almond-scented pink flowers, or the winter sweet (Chimonanthus praecox, syn. C. fragrans). For spring, plant Azara microphylla, which has vanilla-scented yellow flowers, wisteria, or the early Dutch honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum ‘Belgica’). For summer and later in the year you would be advised to choose the pineapple-scented broom (Cytisus battandieri), the white Jasminum officinale, or the creamy white Chinese gooseberry (Actinidia chinensis).

I would like to grow some climbers in pots on my patio. Which varieties do best in pots?

Many climbers are too vigorous for pots, but the summer- and autumn- flowering clematises, which can be cut back every spring, will thrive. You could also try slightly tender climbers, such as the white potato vine (Solanum jasminoides ‘Album’) and the

Chilean glory flower (Eccremocarpus scaber); the pots or tubs can be moved into a garage or greenhouse in winter to protect them against frost. Other possibilities are some of the less-vigorous roses, such as ‘Nozomi’. /7f>

I have a wall three storeys high on one side of part of my garden and I’d like to grow something up it as it looks rather daunting. What do you suggest?

For a wall this size you really need something self-clinging: it would be very difficult to put wires up and tie the shoots in as often as would be necessary. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and Boston ivy (P. tricuspidata) with their lovely autumn colour, will just keep on climbing. Hydrangea petiolaris is also a ready climber, and although it will take a very long time to reach the top, it should eventually get there. Ivies are ideal; Irish ivy (Hedera hibemica) is one of the quickest, but whichever variety you choose, remember that those with large, plain green leaves will cover the area more quickly than the smaller-leaved variegated types.

At the bottom of my garden are some old timber and corrugated iron sheds. I haven’t got the time to dismantle them, but could I plant something that would rapidly cover them up?

The plant usually recommended for this purpose is the Russian vine, also known with justice as the mile-a-minute vine (Polygonum baldschuanicum). This can grow up to 6 m (20 ft) a year and will also stand hard pruning if it outgrows its space. I would not recommend ivies because they collect so much debris that the whole lot might collapse; but Virginia creeper and the vigorous spring-flowering clematises, such as Clematis montana, or the American honeysuckle (Lonicera x americana) should all be suitable for your purpose.

Some of the stems of my clematis have fallen down and are growing along the ground, where they seem to be doing quite well. Can this or any other climber be used as ground cover?

Clematises make very good ground-cover plants, as do the yellow-veined honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica ‘Aureo-reticulata’) and the climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiohris); many roses, especially ramblers, can also be used in this way.

I have an ugly tree stump in the garden which is too big to dig out. Can you think of a sprawling climber of some sort that would cover it but would not rampage too much?

The less-vigorous ivies are ideal for this job. Choose one of the varieties of common ivy (Hedera helix) with prettily marked leaves, such as ‘Glacier’ in grey and white, ‘Buttercup’ with young leaves entirely yellow, or ‘Adam’ with white-margined green leaves. Try also the dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla), with enormous leaves and yellow and purple pipe-shaped flowers. Schizophragma hydrangeoides, with its hydrangea-like similar flowers in creamy white, does very well on old stumps and is self-clinging.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.