Climbers on arbors, pergolas and walls

The beauty of any garden can be greatly enhanced by growing climbers on various kinds of garden structures such as pergolas, arbors, trellises, arches, gates, lattices or tripods.Climbers are very flexible and can be easily encouraged to grow along the shape of the support. Vigorous growth habit and high ornamental value give them a prominent role in a garden. They take up little space, yet quickly produce the desired effect owing to the mass of greenery, beautiful flowers and decorative fruit. They create shields screening out wind, dust and sunlight, and replace stale, polluted air with life giving oxygen.


Clematis 'Purpurea Plena Elegans'
A frequent problem arising in a newly-established garden is the lack of a shaded area, where you could take shelter from the baking sun during hot days. While it takes many years for a tree to grow to such a size that its treetop offers enough shade, within just a few months you can create a charming, secluded and shaded place by growing climbers over an arbor or a pergola. The following species are perfectly suited for this purpose: Akebia quinata, Virginia Creeper, Chinese Bittersweet, honeysuckles, wisterias, Frost Grape, Silvervine Fleeceflower, the hybrids from the Tangutica Group, the Vitalba Group (especially 'Paul Farges') or from the Viticella Group, but other climbers may also be used with success. Vines also prove invaluable in creating structures like shaded tunnels and tepees for natural adventure playground for children.


Clematis montana var. rubens'
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Celastrus orbiculatus 'Hercules' on a pergola on the roof of Warsaw University Library

Colorful flowers
, adding interest to the garden from early spring to late fall, are undoubtedly the main virtue of climbers. None can rival clematis for their countless forms and rich hues, but honeysuckles and Trumpet Creepers come hot on their heels with their beautiful blooms. One shouldn't also forget about wisteria, for its cascades of flowers, though lasting only one to three weeks, possess charm and beauty that fully makes up for the transience of the blossom. Pairing plants with flowers of various colors offers endless possibilities for forming spectacular compositions, and selecting varieties with successive bloom times will provide a continuous display from the end of April (e.g. cultivars from the Atragene Group, or Clematis montana and its cultivars) through most of the summer, up to the end of September (e.g. 'Ernest Markham', 'Jackmanii',

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Wisteria growing over an arbor
'Jan Paweł II', 'Lady Betty Balfour', 'Pink Fantasy', 'Rouge Cardinal', 'Aureolin') or, in case of Clematis 'Bill MacKenzie', even as late as October. Free flowering varieties with blooms throughout the summer prove ideal for the purpose (e.g. 'Comtesse de Bouchaud', 'Etoile Violette', 'Madame Julia Correvon', 'Polish Spirit' or 'Paul Farges'). Numerous climbers have fragrant flowers (e.g.: Perfoliate Honeysuckle , Woodbine Honeysuckle, Goldflame Honeysuckle, Japanese Honeysuckle 'Halliana', Frost Grape , or Clematis flammula, Clematis x triternata 'Rubromarginata' and Sweetautumn Clematis). When planted near the door, a bench or a window, they fill the air with sweet, soothing scent which is stronger in the evening in wind-sheltered positions.

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fruit of Actinidia arguta 'Jumbo'

The fruit of many climbers can equal flowers in their decorative value. Some species, like Magnolia vine and many varieties of actinidia, combine beauty with the qualities of a utility plant by bearing fruit that is not only ornamental, but also edible, tasty and wholesome. Porcelain Ampelopsis 'Elegans' with its blue-violet berries and Chinese Bittersweet with yellow-red fruit enliven the garden during fall. Fluffy seedheads of clematis give a beautiful display throughout the winter with their exquisite shapes, especially when covered in fine frost.

Climbers attract birds to the garden, offering them safe shelter and plenty of nesting sites. Vigorous or moderately growing species, such as Virginia Creeper, Trumpet Honeysuckle, Silvervine Fleeceflower, Chinese Bittersweet, and numerous clematis, or Common Moonseed with its tangle of slender stems covered with heart-shaped leaves are ideal for this purpose. The fruit and berries of Trumpet Honeysuckle, Chinese Bittersweet and Monks Hood Vine can be a great food source in fall months. And birds, in return for food and shelter, will enliven your garden and give you endless hours of pleasure, singing and helping to keep your garden free of pests.

Training clematis on various kinds of fences or walls is extremely popular.

Since clematis climb by twining petioles (leaf stalks) that hold onto anything narrow enough to encircle, supports should be thin and wire-like, e.g. lattice work, chain link fences or trellises. To grow clematis on a wall, support it with a wire mesh or lattice structure, or even with separate rods or cords. A 25 x 25 cm mesh spacing will ensure a uniform covering of the wall. Leave at least a 1,5-2 cm space between the support and the wall, to allow for ventilation and space for the vine to twine. Depending on the density and the height of the cover in demand, different varieties can be chosen. If a dense and quick cover is desired, you should plant vigorous cultivars such as 'Bill MacKenzie', 'Paul Farges', 'Lambton Park', or Clematis 'montana var. rubens'. Alternatively, if time is not of the essence, you can try moderately fast growing varieties (e.g. 'Star of India', 'Jackmanii', 'Etoile Violette', 'Błękitny Anioł', 'Kardynał Wyszyński', 'Comtesse de Bouchaud', 'Mrs Cholmondeley', 'Polish Spirit' or other cultivars from the Viticella Group) or, if the garden space is limited, you may choose any cultivars from 'Dominica', 'Piilu', 'The President' and the hybrids from the Atragene Group such as 'Frankie', 'Pamela Jackman', or 'Markham's Pink').

Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Veitchii' over a wall

The majority of climbers grow by twining spirally round a support, while others, owing to the presence aerial rootlets (Ivies, Climbing Hydrangea, Trumpet Vine, Wintercreeper Euonymus , Japanese Hydrangea Vine), or adhesive tendril tips (Japanese Creeper), are self-clinging and have ability to scale a flat wall, without added support. Climbers are particularly useful for covering walls of the buildings. While the main objective may be the decorative aspect, they also act as insulation during winter, and retain a pleasant coolness inside a house during hot summer days. They also help keep the walls dry by shielding them from the rain, and taking the water away from the foundations of the house. Japanese Creeper is best suited to this end, but you can equally well use ivies or Trumpet Vine, or any other climber on condition that a suitable support is provided.

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Hedera helix 'Thorndale' over a wall in winter

Evergreen climbers
(Ivy, Lonicera acuminata, Lonicera henryi or Japanese Honeysuckle) will provide green cover all year round. Unfortunately, their limited hardiness restricts their application only to the regions with a milder climate. They shouldn't be grown in sites exposed to full sun, where they are more likely to freeze. The colors of the foliage are not reduced to various shades of green, some species can boast variegated leaves. The following are well worthy of mention: Yellow-leafed Hop (var. 'Aurea'), Japanese Honeysuckle 'Aureoreticulata' with its yellow veining, slivery glaucous leaves of Japanese Hydrangea-vine 'Moonlight', striking white-green, splashed with pink, leaves of Actinidia kolomikta 'Adam' or Porcelain Ampelopsis 'Elegans' . In fall you can expect a magnificent display on the part of Virginia Creeper , Crimson Glory Vine and Amur river grape when their leaves turn scarlet.

Climbers can quickly clothe unsightly buildings, sheds, warehouses etc., thus screening them out from your visitors' sight. If you want to have the effect in just one year, you should plant: Russian Vine, Hop or the cultivars from the the Tangutica Group or the Vitalba Group (especially Clematis 'Paul Farges'). However, if you can wait 2-3 years, you can use any of

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Clematis Tangutica Group 'Lambton Park' over a fence
the following to achieve good results: Virginia Creeper, Japanese Honeysuckle 'Halliana' , Woodbine Honeysuckle 'Serotina', Lonicera acuminata, Chinese Bittersweet, Boston Ivy, Actinidia kolomikta, Monks Hood Vine, Common Moonseed, Japanese Wisteria, Amur river grape and Silk Vine.

Climbers can be grown over various kinds of fences (e.g. wire meshes), thus decorating, creating privacy and screening from nosy people's eyes. When used as a hedge, they occupy less space, require less work and produce the desired effect in a shorter amount of time. Virginia Creeper is the most suitable for this purpose, but you can also use some of the clematis (ideally the cultivars from

the Tangutica Group and the Vitalba Group (especially 'Paul Farges'), and 'Etoile Violette' and 'Polish Spirit'), Russian Vine (great for those who want a quick screen as it may create a wall of greenery in just 4-6 weeks), Hop and honeysuckles.