However, woody varieties can take a few years
to establish. Before they reach their required height and spread, you
can fill the space with annual climbers for instant results. Sweet peas,
morning glories, and climbing nasturtiums are all good choices for
sunny sites, although the latter also tolerates some shade. Annual
climbers are also useful for embellishing a vegetable garden, as their
root systems are less invasive than those of woody or perennial plants,
and they will not interfere with crop production. Sweet peas are ideal
here, adding scent and encouraging pollinating insects, as well as
providing a bonus crop of cut flowers.
While some climbers are quite small, reaching up to around head-height,
others can extend to the top of large trees or over your house, so check
the final heights of your chosen plants when making your plans. Also
look for mature specimens in other people’s gardens or parks to see how
To plant a few climbers together so that they intermingle, be sure their
pruning requirements are compatible. A late-blooming large-flowered
clematis, such as the dark purple ‘Jackmanii Superba’, makes a good
match with one of the viticella types, such as the rich red ‘Mme. Julia
Correvon’ or dark purple ‘Etoile Violette’, as both are pruned back to
about 12 in (30 cm) in early spring. But neither makes a good match with
early-flowering types, such as Clematis alpina, which can be left or
pruned after flowering, from mid- to late spring. When pruning the
late-flowering variety, you might remove the wrong stems and remove the
flowers from your spring performer, too. Likewise, plant climbers with
similar support requirements together; understanding how they climb will
help you provide the best supports.
Where to Plant Climbers
In the wild, many climbers scramble up through trees and shrubs to the
light at the top. To imitate these conditions in your garden, ensure
that the climber has its head in the sun, and use other plants around
its base to shade the roots.
Climbers will also grow up established trees with light canopies, such
as old fruit trees or robinias; light filters through the branches and
encourages the climber to work its way up through the canopy. Good
candidates for this type of display include rambling roses, such as
blowsy pink ‘Albertine’ and creamy ‘Bobby James’, and summer-flowering,
large-flowered clematis such as ‘Perle d’Azur’, which will start to
bloom as the rose finishes.
Around conifers, plant just outside the edge of the canopy, and use
canes to guide the stems up to the lowest branches; plant a little
closer to the trunk of deciduous trees. Try to plant on the windward
side of the tree, so that unsecured young shoots are blown toward the
South-facing walls can be too hot for some climbers; choose a sun-lover,
such as a passion flower, wisteria, trachelospermum, or a vine (Vitis).
The soil will also be dry next to a sunny wall, so plant about 18 in
(45 cm) away from it; then mulch in spring, and water in dry weather.
Plant clematis and roses where they will receive the cooler morning or early evening sun, because both dislike the intense heat of a south wall, unless it is partially shaded.