Using climbing plants in your garden is a wonderful way to exploit a vertical surface. A word to the wise though – you must fully understand exactly how a plant hangs on so that you provide it with perfect support.
why do plants climb?
Climbing plants are the lazy, impatient, opportunistic members of the plant world.
weavers and twiners
Winding plants twist their stems around a structure. As I’m the queen of trivia, did you know that the runner bean winds anti-clockwise, whereas honeysuckle and hops are happy lacing their way clock-wise? Don’t try and change this natural orientation, as the plant will sulk and will probably peg out.
A typical twiner is the wisteria. However, the older the plant is, the sturdier the stems become, so if you don’t provide it with a suitable framework to twine around (either horizontal wires or sturdy arch or pergola) then it will latch itself around something unsuitable such as your telephone or television aerial cable and pull them off the wall.
Instead of using the plant stem to do all the hard work, other plants will hang on using their own version of a grappling hook.
The first is a tendril, which looks like a coiled spring, used by sweet peas and passionflower.
You’ll find the second ‘grappling’ hook method on your clematis. Here it’s the leaf stalk or petiole that does the twisting.
In both these examples, you will need to give them something more slender than trellis to attach themselves to – bean netting, chicken wire or other open weave mesh will work well.
The most common plant in this group is ivy, where it produces adventitious roots from its stem to allow it to adhere onto a wall. Another more decorative sticker is the climbing hydrangea, which is an extremely useful plant for a north-facing wall. For both, no support is needed – just place close to the wall or fence and the plants will do the rest.
© 2014 Valerie McBride-Munro
Auntie Planty is a qualified horticulturist. She offers gardening master classes and plant guidance in your own garden.