With a few exceptions, ivy (hedera) and Virginia creeper (parthenocissus) among them, most climbers need something to fasten themselves to or to scramble over. Wall shrubs are a different proposition, and will more or less take care of themselves, although you may need to tether the mainand also some of the side shoots.
The least trouble in the long run, and the least obtrusive support for your climbers, is trellis, which will blend well with wooden fencing and often improves the look of an unattractive wall. Trellis is usually made of wood, although there are some all-plastic versions on the market, and comes in two versions: diamond-shaped, which can be pushed or stretched into different angles and shapes, and the more rigid, squared version which is usually slightly more expensive and which can be used as a free-standing support for screening plants. It is important that all wooden trellis should be kept slightly away from the wall or fence, rather than being nailed straight on to it.
There are three reasons for this: the trellis itself is far less likely to rot if it is not in contact with another surface; it enables air to circulate round the climbers; and the climbers themselves can twist round the wooden slats, an essential part of their anchorage system for some of them. The usual way to fix trellis to a wall, especially a brick or stone one, is to nail small wooden blocks at intervals, fixing them to the mortar between the bricks with masonry nails, or into the brickwork itself with screws and rawlplugs. Never place wooden trellis in direct contact with the soil: fix it on the wall or support about 30 cm (1 ft) above the ground or it may rot quickly. Soak or paint your trellis with a wood preservative before you fix it to the wall if it has not already been treated by the manufacturer, and make sure that the preservative you use will not be harmful to your growing plants.
An alternative to trellis are the new rigid panels of plastic-coated wire that usually come in two colours, white or green. They tend to be more obtrusive than wood but are good for plants requiring closer-knit support. Here again, the panels should be fixed slightly away from the wall, to give the plants breathing space. For lighter-weight climbers there are all sorts of plastic netting and meshes available, ranging from those with very small, close mesh to more openwork kinds. The mesh can be stretched over wooden fencing quite easily, then fixed with galvanized iron staples or with a domestic staple gun which will do the job quite satisfactorily, provided the climber concerned is not a heavyweight plant. Against brick or stone walls, or if you are covering a large amount of fence, it pays to make up panels, using battens, and fix the mesh to them, stretching it as you go, before putting the panels up on the wall. Lengths of ordinary galvanized wire mesh, often called ‘chicken wire’, will also make a good support for climbers.
Another way of securing your climbers is by lacing a series of wires through a network of Before deciding on precisely which wall fixing to have, remember that as a climber matures and grows it will become heavier, so all forms of support need to be fixed very securely to the wall. The best time to do this is, of course, before the climbers or shrubs are planted, when you can get at the fence or wall with ease. Always put in more fixings than you think you will need to save headaches later on.
If you have a wall or a fence that needs painting from time to time, it might pay you to fix the wall support – a trellis, for instance – on a hinge at the base, so that it can be swung away from the wall, complete with climber, ready for painting. Wall clingers such as ivy (hedera) pose a problem here, but in a formal setting, where they are used purely for decoration, they can be encouraged to grow round looped chains, or even ropes secured at the top of the wall, both of which can be detached when you need to do any painting or maintenance.
Do-it-yourself wall supports include homemade trellis which need not be in the traditional squares or diamonds but fan-shaped, for instance, to accommodate the shape the climber is likely to make eventually. Finally, very lightweight climbers –, for instance – can easily be attached to a wooden fence by simply stapling a network of strings over it with a domestic staple gun. The result will certainly last the space of one summer and could poss- ibly last two.
FIXING YOUR PLANTS
If it is necessary to tie a climber or a wall plant to the wall or to its support, be careful to make sure that you do not do this so tightly that you strangle it as it grows. Use flexible light-weight fastenings, such as plastic ‘string’ or raffia and tie them, figure of eight fashion, round the support and the plant. Check them regularly to make sure that they are not too tight. There are also plastic ties available with a series of notches in them so that you can let them out as the plant grows. A useful tie for a mature plant – a wall shrub, for instance – is a masonry nail, which goes into the wall and has two pliable arms which can be folded round the stem to hold it in place.