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27 June 2014

Growing Climbing Plants in Your Garden

Many gardens will have a vertical space of some size, such as a wall or fence, so why not brighten it up by the use of climbing plants. You can even grow plants in a container up against your house wall, and if you haven't a suitable wall or fence, make a pergola or obelisk for plants to climb up.

Your choice of suitable plants will be governed by the direction your wall faces - a north-facing wall with little sun will suit some plants due to the even temperatures and often moist soil, while other plants need a warm, sunny wall to grow against, though the soil here can be very dry. Walls receiving only afternoon sun are more gentle to plants, which may grow more quickly as there may be more moisture in the soil.

Most plants require support to help them climb, so you will need to fasten either trellis or wire to your wall or fence. You can make your own trellis or buy it ready-made, but set it a little way off the wall so that your plant can grow around it.

If you are using wire on a wall, hammer vine eyes into the mortar up to 1.8m (6ft) apart, and make a series of horizontal rows, leaving 45cm (18in) between layers and starting with the first row 30cm (12in) off the ground. Thread wire through the first vine eye and pull it back on itself and twist a few times to secure, then do the same at the other end, keeping the wire taut. Cut off any excess. With fences, drill holes through posts and fit eyebolts, securing wire the same way as for walls.

Before planting your climber, water it well and then allow it to drain. Then prepare a planting hole about twice the size of the pot and half as deep again. This should be about 30cm (12in) away from the wall or fence, to ensure the climber gets plenty of moisture - the soil can become very dry near the base of a wall. Lightly fork the bottom of the hole then remove the plant carefully from its container, gently loosening the roots if they look congested. For most climbers the top of the root ball should be at the same level as the top of the soil, though clematis should be 6cm (2.5in) below the surface. Place your plant in the bottom of the hole, making sure the hole isn't too deep or shallow, then backfill with soil and firm in with your foot.

Help your plant to get established by watering well for the first few months after planting, and make sure it doesn't dry out in sunny weather. This is obviously less of a problem if you are growing against a north-facing wall. Keep the area weed-free and use a mulch of bark chippings or leaf mould to keep in moisture.

As your plant grows, spread out the stems and tie them in to the supports with twine.

In my next article I will look at plants suitable for growing against a north-facing, shady wall.
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