Useful Climbing Garden Plants
Here are some useful and attractive garden climbers:
Actinidia Actinidia chinensis is a fast grower with stems covered in red hairs and large, round leaves. Flowers are buff white and the hairy fruits edible, but its chief value is for its foliage. This applies also to Actinidia kolomikta, a far less rampant plant with medium size leaves attractively coloured green, pink and cream, suitable for training on a sunny house wall. Actinidia chinensis is for an old tree or a ruin. Either can have stems shortened occasionally in summer and cut back more severely in winter.
Ceanothus Shrubs, not climbers, but all, and particularly the small-leaved evergreen kinds, make excellent covering for sunny walls. Small blue flowers carried in spring or early summer in thimble-like clusters. Should be pruned immediately they fade. Important to shorten the stems growing away from the wall or fence which cannot easily be tied back
Chaenomeles Botanical name for Japanese quinces or ‘Japonicas’. Deciduous shrubs flowering in late winter and spring, ideal for training against walls and almost self supporting. Clusters of scarlet, crimson or orange-red ‘apple blossom’ flowers; pruning best done from May to August as for ceanothus.
Clematis Great variety. Most familiar are the very vigorous May flowering Clematis montana, with small but numerous white or pink flowers, and the many summer flowering hybrids, with much larger flowers, and of various colours. All deciduous, as are spring flowering Clematis macropetala, with lavender or pink nodding flowers, and August-September flowering Clematis tangutica, with bell-shaped yellow flowers, followed by silken seed heads. Spring flowering Clematis armandii is evergreen, with clusters of small white flowers. Needs a warm sheltered place.
Pruning is determined by vigour and flowering time. Spring and early summer flowering kinds, eg. armandii, macropetala, alpina, montana, ‘Henri’ and ‘Nellie Moser’, are pruned immediately after flowering when stems can be shortened to fit available space. Later summer or early autumn flowering kinds, eg tangutica, orientalis, viticella, flammula, ‘Jackmanii’, `Comtesse de Bouchaud’, `Ernest Markham’, ‘Hagley Hybrid’, ‘Marie Boisselot’, ‘The President’, and ‘Ville de Lyon’, are best pruned in February-March, when they can be cut back quite severely. All varieties enjoy lime and like to grow with their roots shaded but their leaves in the sun.
Cobaea scandens Very fast-growing perennial. Too tender to live outdoors in winter except in the mildest parts of Britain but grown successfully as a half-hardy annual. Unusual, attractive flowers, rather like Canterbury Bells and either green and violet or greenish white, ideal for use as a quick cover. It climbs by tendrils.
Eccremocarpus scaber Fast-growing tendril climber often treated as a half-hardy annual, but will survive outdoors in many warm, sunny places. It has small divided leaves and dangling clusters of tubular yellow, orange or carmine flowers all summer. Dead growth should be cut out each April.
Hedera Botanical name for ivy. Three species are especially useful. Common ivy is Hedera helix with numerous varieties of leaf colour and shape. All completely hardy, and will grow in sun or shade, but the yellow-leaved varieties develop their best colour in good light. All can be clipped or cut back in spring or summer if they extend too far. Hedera colchica has the largest leaves of all, unlobed and sometimes 20cm (8in) long and almost as much across. It has a very handsome cream variegated variety, `Dentata variegata’.
petiolaris and Schizophragma integrifolia Two very vigorous climbing hydrangeas clinging, like ivy, with aerial roots. Look splendid growing up big tree trunks. Schizophragma is the more spectacular of the two but less common. Both can be cut back as necessary in winter.
Jasminum The yellow winter flowering Jasminum nudiflorum is quite hardy, will grow in sun or shade and is a sprawler or thruster requiring a few ties. An ideal wall plant and can be pruned as necessary after flowering. Jasminum officinalis, the sweet-scented, white-flowered summer jasmine, is a vigorous twiner for a warm sunny place. It can be thinned and shortened in March-April.
Lonicera Honeysuckles, the climbing kinds, are all vigorous twiners. The varieties sold as ‘Early Dutch’ and ‘Late Dutch’ flower respectively in June and July-August, are yellow and red and are spicily fragrant. Lonicera japonica has pale yellow, sweetly scented flowers. Lonicera sempervirens has tubular scarlet flowers and Lonicera tellmanniana is red in bud and deep yellow when open, but both these lack scent. All honeysuckles dislike very hot dry places. Most can be thinned and cut back after flowering, but L. japonica is best pruned in spring.
Parthenocissus Correct current name for the Virginia Creepers and Boston Ivies. All vigorous vine-like creepers with brilliant coloured leaves in autumn. Most like sun but P. henryana will thrive in light shade. All can be cut back as much as necessary in winter.
Passiflora coerulea The Passion Flower and the only species sufficiently hardy to be grown outdoors in Britain; even so requires a particularly warm, sunny, sheltered place. It is a very vigorous tendril climber with unusual, saucer-shaped, white flowers with a ring of violet purple filaments around the prominent central anthers and stigma. Plants can be pruned as necessary each April.
Pyracantha The Firethorns are evergreen shrubs readily trained against walls and fences and virtually self supporting. Good foliage, clusters of small white flowers in summer followed by fine crops of red, orange or yellow berries in autumn. Numerous species and hybrids, all excellent and all particularly fond of limy soils.
baldschuanicum The Russian Vine, possibly the most rampant of all hardy climbers and ideal for covering a ruin or scrambling high into a worthless tree from which it will cascade in billowy cream and pink flowers in late summer Can be a bit of a handful.
Trachelospermum Deliciously scented evergreen twiners for warm, sunny sheltered places. There are two species, Trachelospermum asiaticum and Trachelospermum jasminoides, both much alike in their clusters of small white flowers but Trachelospermum asiaticum is slightly more hardy and therefore the better one to buy. Ideal for walls, and rarely needing much pruning but they can be thinned or shortened in April-May.
Vitis The vines are excellent tendril climbers which thrive on chalk and limestone and do not mind a relatively small amount of. Ideal for patios and terraces.
Wisteria Popular twiners more suitable for pergolas and for growing into trees than for training on houses, where they require a lot of pruning to keep them within bounds. Wisteria floribunda is a good deal less rampant than Wisteria sinensis and there are some very beautiful varieties of it. All can be thinned and cut back in winter and pruned in summer by shortening all side growths to about five leaves.