Do you have a tall space you’d like to fill with fragrant blooms? Or perhaps an eyesore you want to mask?
The answer may be in a carefully chosen climbing plant, whether it’s roses around the door or velvet blue wisteria dripping from the house wall, fragrant sweet peas in a pot to enjoy as soon as you open the patio door or an arbour covered in the saucer-sized clematis blooms.
When early-flowering perennials such as lupins are flagging, many climbers may be coming into their own.
Clematis and roses form a perfect combination for focal-point obelisks in borders. I have the rich pink David Austin English rose ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, combined with the pink-striped Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’, which form a stunning accent in a romantic border and require the same sort of feed, so are perfect plant partners.
Striped clematis are a good choice for shadier areas in the garden. They bloom in late spring, but produce another crop of flowers in summer, ideal to brighten up a dull corner. No pruning is needed unless they outgrow their allotted space, they then can be cut back immediately after the first crop of flowers.
Other clematis will prolong the season of interest. Late-flowering C. viticella varieties happily scramble through spring and summer-flowering shrubs such as philadelphus and syringe and will flower well into autumn, long after the flowers of the shrubs have faded.
Ivies are often unfairly dismissed as dull, but take a look at Hedera ‘Buttercup’ and ‘Sulphur Heart’ with their fresh summer foliage and you will have to think again. Try growing them on trellis screens with their foliage wound in and out of the holes – they make excellent screens for unattractive compost heaps and recycling bins.
The soft green foliage and eye-catching flowers of clematis make them favourites for breaking up the outline of trellis fencing, while vigorous plants such as Vitis coignetiae will hide eyesores such as sheds or ugly walls, cloaking them in large, heart-shaped leaves which turn into a fiery mix of blood-red and yellow in the autumn.
In fact, foliage climbers can really play their part in the garden.
Make a doorway inviting by adorning it with a Chilean potato tree (Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’), whose purple-blue flowers last from summer to autumn, or an ornamental vine, which will provide a spectacular red foliage finale in autumn.
Annual climbers like the exotic Cobaea scandens, the cup and saucer plant, and the fabulous blue trumpets of morning glory, Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’, planted in pots and grown up a tripod of bamboo canes, can be popped into any gaps that appear in borders. They flower continuously as they grow and so will carry on producing delicious flowers right through to October.
If you have a sheltered, sunny spot close to the house for a large pot and want an exotic-looking addition, the climbing glory lily, Gloriosa Rothschildiana, might be your best bet with its zingy red and yellow-based tropical-looking blooms, which will climb up a wigwam happily.
Create a fragrant seating area by making a canopy of scented plants around an archway over a garden bench. Climbing roses such as R. ‘Climbing Iceberg’ will provide the height and scent, while clumps of deep purple catmint could provide a strong, vibrant colour contrast at ground level.
If you find your large flowered clematis always looks fabulous while you are away on holiday, try cutting it back in the spring – this will delay flowering and enable you to enjoy it on your return.
Dead-head climbing roses as they finish flowering – many will reward you with an extra crop of flowers. Rather than snipping off individual blooms, cut back flowerheads to two or three buds further down the stems. Feed the plants with a rose fertiliser to encourage the later flowers.
Planting climbers now gives them time to settle in and so produce even more spectacular flowers next year. Passion flower, campsis and Plumbago auriculata will all add an exotic touch to the garden.
Best of the bunch – Petunia
The humble petunia may have lost favour in recent years thanks to the garish colours so often associated with it and the tendency of the flowers to turn into smelly, soggy masses in the pouring rain. But for those who are looking for cheerful colours and excellent partners for other stalwart annuals, petunias definitely have a place in hanging baskets and containers. For those on a budget, single-coloured trailing varieties can fill up a hanging basket and, with regular feeding and deadheading, can last all summer. Some, such as Petunia ‘Tumbelina’ and Surfinia ‘Blue Vein’ also provide delicious scent. Grow them in full sun, water them daily in summer, deadhead and feed weekly and they should last until autumn. And if you want subtle, you can have it. There are white varieties such as the ‘Trailing Surfinia White’ and almost black hues such as ‘Black Velvet’.
Good enough to eat – propagating strawberries
If you want more strawberries for next season, check your existing plants, looking for the runners formed around them, which are potential new plants. Remove any which look tired and unhealthy and leave enough for the number of extra plants you need. To give the new plant its best chance, peg down the runner using a U-shaped piece of wire and improve the soil beneath the mini plant on the runner. The best way, although it is fiddly, is to peg the runner into a small pot of compost which you then put into the ground. It makes it easier to lift the plant later on. Once the new plant has formed a good root system, cut it off from the parent plant and then plant it out. You should soon have a bigger glut of strawberries in the new season.
What to do this week
Sow a few seeds of salad crops like lettuce, radish and salad leaves every two weeks during summer.
Continue to sow Chinese vegetables such as pak choi.
Prune cherries, almonds and plums.
Feed the lawn if you didn’t do it in spring.
Give herbaceous geraniums a haircut when the last of the flowers have faded.
Remove suckers from roses.
Thin out hardy annuals which are too closely packed.
Start deadheading early summer-flowering plants such as lupins.
Pinch out the shoot tips on summer bedding.
If you have a pond, introduce new surface-floating plants, which should establish quickly.