Reach new heights
Wall climbers will add an extra dimension to your garden, says Marie Staunton
Wall climbers are underused in most gardens. Perhaps it's because they need a little bit more attention, with training over walls and some pruning being the two biggest jobs.
But without a complement of climbing plants, a garden can look a little one- dimensional, so add in one or two for a bit of variation.
For the most part, clematis come out top of the list when shopping for a plant to cover a pergola, or to train along a wall. And they offer fantastic colour at various times of the year.
As I look out to my garden at the moment, the only thing brightening up the dreariness of the day is the lovely Clematis 'Perle d'Azur'. They can be a bit on the awkward side if you don't plant them properly at the start -- if they aren't planted deeply enough they are prone to what's known as clematis wilt.
It will drive you to distraction when you see a perfectly good- looking flowering climber suddenly shrivel up and wilt overnight.
If it happens, cut it back almost to the butt and it will take off again. But the best way to ensure a long flowering season is to give the plant a good start and a place in your garden where it can flourish.
Dig a deep planting hole and, after giving the plant a good watering, plant it so the first two sets of leaves are buried beneath the soil surface. This is particularly important if you are growing a clematis in a pot.
The other consideration is sunshine; they like a nice bit of sun -- don't we all -- and they also like their feet or roots in the shade, which can prove a little difficult.
Planting it in conjunction with a ground cover -- for instance, a hosta will afford it a nice bit of shade at the roots and then it can climb up to catch the sun.
Even though you might be tempted to cut back a summer-flowering clematis during the winter, please leave it to over-winter and cut it back in early spring instead.
Not widely grown is the lovely Abelia floribunda, with its tubular, bell-shaped flowers in late June and July. It can be kept neat and tidy and responds well to a good cut back in spring before flowering.
We have one on a south-facing wall and it basks in the intermittent summer sunshine.
If you are after an evergreen, how about Trachelospermum jasminoides. It sounds a bit like an illness, but it is a wall climber with beautiful glossy green leaves all year round and a small, scented cream flower during July.
It's the sort of climber that likes to be kept close to the wall, so an annual haircut will suit it well. Ours grows particularly well on a west-facing wall, but it will flower better on a south-facing wall.
This year we planted a Fremontodendron californicum, which has the most dazzling yellow flowers that more than make up for its lacklustre evergreen leaves.
Plant it on a south-facing wall to catch as much heat and light as possible. It isn't the hardiest of plants and won't like very bad winters, but it is a very special wall climber and one I would highly recommend.
Camellia makes a good specimen plant and a very fine wall plant. In the right soil, on anything but an east-facing wall, it will look amazing.Try a pink one called Camellia x williamsii 'Donation'.
They are shallow rooters and, if you don't have acid soil, you could make an acid bed for it to grow in -- or try a very large pot against a sunny wall.
Remember, though, not one facing east, as the early-morning sunshine after a frost will harm the new flowering buds in spring.
My newly sown wallflower seeds are ready to be potted and I'm grateful to be in the glasshouse potting, listening to the radio and taking my ease, thinking of sunnier days.
So bad is the weather at the moment that my little fella is planning what he's going to dress up as for Halloween -- that about says it all really.
I've taken a big shine to yellow flowering plants this summer and one that's standing out like a ray of sunshine at the moment is Calceolaria integrifolia. We have one in full sunshine and one in semi-shade and both do really well, so if you need a bit of cheering up then this is the plant for you.
I met a lovely lady in Galway recently who was looking for the name of a particular climbing rose and I don't seem to be able to reach her via email, so if you are that lady, or her daughter reading this, the rose is called 'American Beauty'.