Climbing Annuals

Climbing plants are useful to cover walls and sheds, mask old tree stumps and clamber over patio fences and loggias. Some can even be grown with perennial climbers like roses, so that they can take over and give colour when the roses have finished blooming. Most of those grown as annuals are only half hardy so have to be raised under glass and grown on in pots before it is safe to put them outside in early summer.

With the aid of climbers small gardens can be enclosed with ‘curtains’ of flowers and leaves and a shady sitting out area is easily contrived by growing them up a light framework erected around three sides of a garden seat.


Cobaea scandens is the cup and saucer plant, a vigorous Mexican which can reach a height of 20 ft. or more in a season. It needs a sheltered position and full sun. The large 3-in, flowers are greenish or creamy white at first, but the inner bell-like corolla becomes violet or purple with age. All the flowers are set off by green, saucer-like bracts.



These non-edible members of the cucumber family are amusing to grow up trellises or fences, or the heavier-fruited types can be allowed to scramble over the ground. Treat as for marrows and give them full sun and deep rich soil. The fruits vary considerably — in size, shape and colour — and some are smooth skinned and others heavily warted.


Eccremocarpus scaber, the Chilean glory flower, is best treated as a half-hardy annual, except where it is grown under glass or can be adequately protected in winter. Growing about 15 ft. high, it has slender spikes of tubular orange flowers and pinnate leaves with tendrils. It requires a sheltered sunny situation and makes an attractive drape for a south wall.


Humulus scandens (japonicus), one of the hops, provides quick cover for unsightly fences and similar features during the summer months and soon forms a dense screen. The seed germinates in about ten days and can either be raised under-glass for planting out later or sown outside in April. Either the cream-variegated leaf form called variegatus or the golden-foliaged lutescens are the most ornamental.


These delightful ornamental climbers have large trumpet flowers in exquisite shades. The blues are particularly fine.

Ipomoea violacea (I. tricolor; I. Rubrocoerulea) is one of the loveliest, the deep blue, white-throated flowers 5 in. in diameter. I. Purpurea (Convolvulus major) is the morning glory, a beautiful half-hardy annual with violet flowers which become purple with age, but there are also white, dark and sky blue, and crimson forms. Plant ipomoeas outside in June, choosing a warm sunny sheltered situation.


Maurandya (now more correctly Asarina) barclaiana, a vigorous, free-flowering climber from Mexico, has violet-purple, foxglove-like flowers about 3 in. long and smooth sharply pointed leaves. There are also white and rose-flowered forms. Treat as half-hardy annuals and grow in a warm sunny position.


These half-hardy annuals can be grown outside in favourable localities if planted out when all risk of cold is past. Alternatively, they make beautiful climbers for a sun lounge or conservatory. Quamoclit lobata (Mina lobata), from Mexico, grows to 6 or 8 ft. and has three-lobed leaves and showy bunches of scarlet and yellow flowers. Q. pennata, the cypress vine, is more delicate, with finely dissected leaves on 8 to 10-ft. Twining stems and scarlet, star-like flowers.


Thunbergia alata, the black-eyed Susan, can be put out in summer in some localities but generally speaking is best grown under glass in pots and trained over ‘hoops or sticks or up wire fixed to rafter beams. It flowers continuously all summer with vivid orange flowers which have almost black centres in aurantiaca or are white with dark centres in alba. Seed sown in February or March germinates in about fifteen days and needs growing on in a temperature of 55 to 65°F. (13 to 18°C.). The plants like moist, rich but well-drained soil and sun and should be fed occasionally if grown in pots.


Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus and varieties) are well-known plants, with vivid flowers and round glaucous leaves, which thrive in most soils. Both climbing and bush varieties are available, the former ideal for semi-shade in moist soil. They can be grown up trellises or pergolas and flower all through the summer

A wide range of garden forms are now available, in many shades, from primrose, yellow and orange to rose, cherry red and scarlet. Seed should be sown where plants are to flower in April and covered with ¾ in. of soil. This takes ten days to germinate and later should be thinned to the recommended distances and allowed to run up supports.

T. peregrinum (T. canariense) is the canary creeper, a South American climber up to 8 ft., with small, five-fingered leaves and fringed golden-yellow flowers. It does well in a shady situation.

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