Gardening: Make the most of the height hardy climbers bring

Clematis Montana Elizabeth.
Clematis Montana Elizabeth.

Hardy climbers are invaluable in any garden. A big mistake is to have everything performing at ground level, ignoring the vertical growing space.

However, you can create a real sense of depth by growing upwards on obelisks or wigwams and make it appear that your plot’s bigger than it is by blurring the boundaries.

Rose James Galway.

Rose James Galway.

Here’s my favourites:

Clematis Montana (and C. Montana Elizabeth) – from the palest pink of the original, to the stronger colour and purple-flushed, mid-green leaves of Elizabeth, this fast-growing Clematis is a star of late spring. Ideal for covering an eyesore, although be prepared for its bare, bird’s nest branches in winter. No routine pruning is necessary. If it outgrows its welcome, prune immediately after flowering.

Clematis viticella Mme Julia Correvon – a deciduous climber with 12cm flowers of rich claret-red. Flowers from midsummer to late summer. A relative newcomer in a semi-shady spot near the hedge. ideal for a large container. Cut back stems to a pair of strong buds 15-20cm (6-8in) above ground level before growth begins in early spring.

Clematis Dr Ruppel – very large mauve and red blooms, flowering June and sometimes again in September, growing to around 8 feet. The spherical seed heads add interest well into the autumn. A compact cultivar that is excellent for containers. Mine doesn’t grow that tall, as it grows up an obelisk in a semi-shady spot at the back of the border. Prune in late winter or early spring and after the first flush of flowers in summer.

Jasmine Clotted Cream.

Jasmine Clotted Cream.

Golden hop (Humulus lupulus aureus) – a vigorous climber with large, deep-lobed, yellow-green leaves with greenish-yellow, cone-like flowers in early autumn. It will grow 6mx6m in a season, so beware – also the hairs on the leaves can cause an allergic reaction (they do in me). Don’t plant in a windy spot – the leaves get wind burn and look tatty.

Jasmine Clotted Cream (Jasminum officinale) - larger flowers than the common jasmine and even more fragrance. This deciduous climber needs a sheltered, sunny, well-drained site, and can cope with dry conditions. I have three – one in a pot by the door, one growing against a west-facing wall in a tub and one in a dry, semi-shady spot under a tree.

Climbing rose James Galway – my favourite rose, warm pink in the centre, paling gradually towards the edges and packed with petals with a medium Old Rose fragrance. The strong stems are almost thornless, which makes it easy to fan out to the sides. It flowers freely and repeats well, growing up to 8ft.

Everlasting (perennial) sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius) – great if you want sweet pea flowers without the hassle and a quick grower. The down side - no scent and you better plant it in the right place, because you’ll never get it out again! It will climb 6ft to give a summer boost to spring-flowering shrubs or hedges.


Sweet peas need training and tying to their supports to encourage them to climb and make a good display.

Spreading and trailing plants such as the annual Lobularia (sweet alyssum), and the perennials Alyssum and Aubrieta, can become tatty. Trimming them back after flowering encourages fresh growth and new flowers.

Hoe borders to prevent annual and perennial weeds from spreading and seeding themselves.

Liquid feed plants in containers every two to four weeks.

Aphids can multiply rapidly. Remove early infestations by hand to prevent the problem getting out of hand. Protect sweet pea plants in particular, as they can get sweet pea viruses.

Continue to protect lily, delphinium, hosta and other susceptible plants from slugs and snails.

Prune spring-flowering shrubs such as Japanese quince (Chaenomeles), Choisya and Ribes after flowering. Remove one stem in three from Kerria and Spiraea ‘Arguta’, and shorten the other flowered stems to a suitable sideshoot. Evergreens such as Viburnum tinus can also still be trimmed.

Prune wall-trained pyracanthas, removing any shoots coming out from the wall, and shortening other new growth to about 8cm (3in). This encourages spur formation, and increases flowering.

Remove blanket weed in ponds by twirling around a rough stick. Skim off floating weeds such as duckweed with a net. Leave weeds on the pond side for 24 hours to allow trapped creatures to return to the water.


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