Covering arches and pergolas with plants will provide vertical interest outside and will often form a good visual link between the house and garden. Climbers fulfill many functions in the garden, especially when associated with arches and pergolas; not only can they give exotic fragrances and color, but they can also help provide dappled shade and privacy for seating areas.
Different habits of climbers
Climbing plants grow in several different ways. There are those, such as ivy, that climb by means of aerial roots, and those – like Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus) — that stick to the wall with suckers. By their very nature these plants tend to stay flat to a wall and, while they may be ideal on solid brick arches, they are less suitable for covering structures made of wood or metal. For these, twining plants are preferable since they will not only cover all sides of the posts but will also reach from beam to beam, giving a greater coverage of foliage and consequently more shade.
Some plants, such as passionflowers, twine around posts by sending out tendrils, while the whole stem of other plants, such as honeysuckle, winds around posts and beams. However they cling, all climbers benefit from a helping hand when planted; tie them onto vertical wires attached to the pergola posts. For most plants, this is sufficient assistance and they will soon start climbing, but roses in particular may need to be tied in more often: they will climb readily only if there are other host plants into which they can hook their thorns.
Many woody climbers, especially wisteria and many of the climbing roses, are extremely heavy when mature and need the support of a very sturdy framework. Do consider which plants you would like to grow when choosing an arch or pergola; some simple kits may not be strong enough for your ideal plant choice.
Benefits of annual climbers
- These one-season plants provide interest while slower-growing permanent plants establish.
- Annuals can be trained through permanent climbers or shrubs to keep interest through the seasons.
- These climbers offer shade in summer but disappear to let in more light during winter.
- Some fast-growing tender climbers can be grown as annuals in areas of winter cold; they can be enjoyed without needing to overwinter.