Climbers for your garden.
Climbers are also known as creeper plants & they can make use of the vertical aspect of your garden which is especially important in smaller gardens. They make attractive features growing up obelisks, over archways & pergolas or trellis panels. They can provide colourful focal points sometimes in the more difficult garden areas such as under the eaves against a house wall, to hide an ugly garden wall, side of a garage, shed or bin storage area or to break up the monotony of a boring fence. Climbers can be sourced to grow in garden areas that are very hot or shady for most of the day or even in areas where the soil is consistently wet or extremely dry.
There are varieties of climbing plants suitable for planting to solve all these more problematic garden areas. However, you need to think carefully about your situation, what your requirements are & do some research on Caths Garden Plants website or ask for help & advice when buying from Caths Garden Plants nursery so that you buy the ‘right climber for the right place’. There are so many plants to consider. Do you need a vigorous climber that will grow quickly covering a large area or a slower, smaller grower ideal for a smaller space/garden or large pot. Would you prefer an evergreen or deciduous variety, or a climber that is relatively low maintenance or one that requires more pruning & training. There are flowering or non-flowering varieties & climbers that provide food & shelter for wildlife. Sun loving climbers prefer to be planted on a south or west facing wall. Shade lovers prefer chillier north or east facing aspects. There is a lot to consider to make the right choice.
Climbers can be roughly divided into 3 categories. Those that are natural ‘clingers’ that will cling to a surface by growing aerial roots. These climbers should not be planted on walls with any structural defects eg. missing or crumbling pointing, bricks or stones. They leave their aerial roots behind when pruned or removed. They require very little maintenance only pruning when they start to grow over windows, doors or guttering.
The second group of climbers are the ‘twiners’ & these climbers need some support. Clematis, Lonicera (Honeysuckle), Humulus lupulus (Hop) or Lathyrus (Sweet Pea-annual) that twine their roots around to climb but they sometimes need help to climb up a framework or structure. Initially you might need to use 2 or 3 bamboo canes leaning back to make a bridge to the structure & twine some of their stems carefully around the canes to get them started. They might also need tying in regularly so that they grow close to their support (pergola, trellis, obelisk or strong wires through vine eyes screwed into stone or wooden walls). Do you have enough time to work with these plants?
The third group are not really climbers at all but are taller growing ‘wall shrubs’ like Garrya eliptica, Pyracantha, Euonymus & Ceanothus that are free standing & can be grown against walls. They might stand up on their own but if you want the plant to grow closer to the wall it will need to be tied in regularly.
Planting climbers.
When planting climbers dig a hole that is larger than the root ball & prepare the soil by adding some compost or well-rotted manure. If planting near the house walls under the eaves water well after planting, water well in dry spells & keep watering regularly for the first year or two after planting until the plant is mature enough to source enough water for itself. Walls provide mini-microclimates so plants can grow here that wouldn’t survive planted elsewhere in the garden. Avoid the ‘rain shadow’ created by the eaves by planting the plant’s roots about 30-45 cm away from the base of the wall. This gives the roots room to grow & allows some rain to reach the roots. Check the soil to make sure that it isn’t filled with builders’ rubbish before planting.
Planting a climber in a pot.
Many climbers will grow in a pot or container. Over time as the plant grows it will need to be planted in a larger pot so that there are enough nutrients in the compost for the plant to grow healthily & flower well & also to retain enough water. If the foliage is large it might prevent rainfall from actually reaching the roots as the leaves act like an umbrella. Check the plant regularly especially in dry/hot weather by feeling the top few inches of soil. Adding a mulch will conserve moisture & also protect the roots from frost. To protect plant roots in winter plant the plant in a cheap, plastic pot & plant the whole into the  terracotta/ceramic container making sure that there is a gap between both pots. Fill this air gap with bubble wrap, polystyrene, newspaper or more compost. This extra layer of insulation will help to stop any root damage during winter. Alternatively move the pot into a frost-free environment.
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