Climbers get up a wall of fence by three methods: hanging on with their tendrils (like clematis), twisting themselves around uprights (like honeysuckle) or clinging to the walls with aerial roots (like ivy).



Always fix supports in place for climbers before you actually plant them. It is much easier to do so at that stage.

Some young self-climbers like Vaginia creeper need help to start. Attach them to the wall of fence with little pieces of tape until they get the message.

Climbers with the most sensational flowers are hybrid clematis like jackmanii superba which produces large dark purple flowers from July to September.

Clematis Montana is one of the most vigorous climbers, reaching 25ft and more. But its white, slightly-scented flowers are not as spectacular as the hybrids.


clemantis montana

For a mass of heavily scented flowers, go for one of the honeysuckles, some of which reach a height of 30ft (10m) or more in time.

Wisteria sinensis, which climbed by twining, takes a long time to establish but can go as high as 60ft (20m) against the side of a house, producing two flushes of heavily scented lilac flowers. It needs a south-facing wall to give off its best.

The quickest cover for an ugly wall or building is the Russian vine (polygonum baldschuanicum) which can make 20ft (7m) of growth in one summer. But take care it does not get out of control. Cutting back side shoots will give you thicker, grape-vine like stems.

Another fast grower, chilian glory flower produces masses of large orange/red flowers within six months of selling the seed and does very well over a pergola. In mild areas and sheltered spots it will go on year after year, but elsewhere it may be cut down by frosts and you may have to start again.

A passion flower (passiflora) is another climber that prefers sheltered conditions but is worth growing for its unusual flowers. If it cut down but frost, new stems will grow again from the base in the spring. Put it against a south-facing wall.

Virginia creeper is hardy and vigorous and clings by a series of suction pads. It will grow anywhere, reaching a height of 70ft (23m), and gives brilliant scarlet and gold autumn tints against a west-facing wall.

The climbing hydrangea (hydrangea petiolaris) is also self-clinging and in its mature state can reach 60ft (20m). It produces masses of white flowers against waxy green leaves in June and July and is ideal for a north-facing wall.

The flame creeper from Chile produces masses of large scarlet flowers right through the summer. Surprisingly, despite its origin, it does better in northern gardens than in the south, dying back in autumn but coming up again the following spring.

For quick colour don’t forget the old-fashioned nasturtium, and the canary creeper and the morning glory (ipomoea) too which are grown from seed in the spring and flower right through from June to September.

Ivies are the easiest to grow off all climbers, and succeed on any site and soil, climbing vigorously by themselves to give year-round cover for walls and on the ground too. There are many variegated kinds to choose from with leaves splashed with white or gold. These colour best when you plant them against south or west facing walls.

Garrya elliptica is a good climber to plant against a north-facing wall. In winter it will reward you with green tassel-like catkins.

Garrya elliptica