Evergreen Or Deciduous Climbing Plants?

Do you need greenery all year round? That is another point to consider. If the wall itself is attractive, you might prefer to have a change of plant with the seasons, and plant a deciduous shrub or climber, enjoying the first sight of the new leaves in spring and the gradual leaf drop in autumn. Some of the most spectacular and the best-known wall plants lose their leaves in autumn, among them nearly all clematis, roses and most honeysuckles and wisteria. So, an ideal balance would be a judicious mixture of these with evergreens to back them up. But if space is at a premium, you may have to decide between the two. Certainly, if the climber is being used for screening, or to hide an unattractive wall, then evergreens are the answer. But if your plants are to be grown against a surface that needs regular attention – painting, for instance – then deciduous plants have a distinct advantage as you can decorate when the branches are bare.


There are some very attractive evergreens to choose from: camellias, for instance, with their glossy, good-looking leaves as well as beautiful blooms; magnolias and rhododendrons too, and there are some plants – the solanum, for instance – that keep their leaves on for so long, they are listed as semi-evergreen. Make sure that the plants you choose are hardy and, if they are to be in a windy or exposed site, that they are able to cope. Plant them in the spring rather than the autumn if you can, so that their leaves do not have to stand up to a hard winter im- mediately after they have been installed.

Coloured foliage, berries and flowers

With a little thought it is possible to find evergreens that have colourful foliage. Many of the ivies (hedera) have striking leaves marked with silver, white or gold: Hedera helix ‘Goldheart’, for instance, which has leaves of a particularly attractive vibrant green with golden centres. Holly comes in several variations with leaves edged in gold or silver: Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’ has leaves with silver rims, Ilex ‘Golden van Tol’ has gold margins and softer prickles than the rest of the holly family. The deciduous versions of the berberis come in some exciting red-purple shades and one, berberis ‘Rose Glow’, has purple leaves streaked with silver and pinks. Other climbers and shrubs have downy leaves that give the effect of silver as they move. Among these is Abutilon vitifolium which has furry, silvery leaves and large mauve flowers. Cytisus battandieri, the Moroccan broom, will give you a silvery effect, too, for its leaves are covered in down. Other plants, notably the Virginia creeper (partheno- cissus) and some of the grape vines will decorate a wall in autumn with dazzling crimson, bronze or orange foliage.

Yet another possibility, when going through your planting list, is for you to pick shrubs and climbers that have bright attractive berries after they flower. Berberis, in almost all its forms, will reward you in this way and the edible quinces, chaenomeles, produce golden fruits. Holly (ilex) and pyracantha are both well known for their berries, in the latter case varying from yellow through orange into deep red. Akebia quinata has unusual fruits in a deep chocolate brown, while the passion flower (Passiflora caerulea) and Celastrus scandens both have interesting orange fruit. Some of the viburnums, too, produce brightly coloured berries.

Remember that there are many wall plants that will reward you with flowers in winter, when they are all the more appreciated. The winter sweet (chimonanthus) produces flowers from November through to March on bare branches, and so does winter jasmine (fasmi- num nudiflorum). Lonicera fragrantissima, the almost-evergreen honeysuckle, flowers at this time of the year and so does Viburnum x bodnan- tense. There is even a clematis – Clematis balearica – which will give you flowers in winter, to be followed soon afterwards by the camellias.

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