Popularity of climbers like clematis scales new heights

There are many climbing plants to choose from but clematis is the pick of the bunch for Peter Dowdall

Popularity of climbers like clematis scales new heights

There are many climbing plants to choose from but clematis is the pick of the bunch for Peter Dowdall

SO, what is your favourite climbing plant? Climbers bring an added dimension to any garden be they covering an ugly concrete wall or scrambling up a tree but there are a few things that you need to bear in mind when choosing a climber for your garden. Namely, aspect –- what way is the wall or tree facing, do you want flowers or not, do you need a plant which is evergreen or not, is the climber self-clinging or will you need to support it with wire or trellis and finally do you need a vigorous grower or something a bit better behaved?

A bit of time spent pondering those questions before a trip to the garden centre will be time well spent for if you choose the wrong plant, you can regret it in the longer term. Firstly, in terms of aspect, there are many that will grow on a nice sunny wall which is facing south or westerly and far fewer which will tolerate a north-facing aspect with low light levels. Many of the best flowering climbers such as Clematis are mostly deciduous and many of the best evergreens are poor performers in terms of flower colour. That’s not completely true as there are some evergreen clematis and there are other evergreen climbers which produce beautiful blooms.

Plants which are self-clinging are easier to establish on a wall perhaps but do bear in mind that they can be harder to maintain and prune, leaving sticky sucker pads behind as you tear them from roof tiles, downpipes or the neighbour’s wall. I have found over the years that if humans could invent a glue as effective as these innocuous-looking suction pads then it would certainly be the best-selling glue on the market.

Finally, the growth rate, don’t be fooled into thinking that you necessarily need something quick-growing, for speed, in this case, can only mean one thing, high maintenance. If it is quick growing initially, it will be quick growing forever, it won’t magically decrease its vigour once it has covered your desired area, no, it will keep travelling like an inter-railing student, sending tendrils in all directions. A vigorous and un-tended climber will find its way all over the garden, and in particular, it will find loose roof tiles, weakened timber and even climb in through windows if allowed to.

There are many beautiful climbing plants from which to choose and their truly is one for every situation, Wisteria, Tracheleospermum (evergreen jasmine), Parthenocissus (Virginia creeper and Boston ivy), Hedera (ivy) and climbing hydrangea are all worth considering but I think the greatest genus of all in this group has to be clematis of which there are over 300 species and hundreds more cultivars and varieties.

‘Sugar-Sweet Blue’ is a new cultivar of wilt-resistant clematis with beautiful, fragrant flowers from April to June. It is one of the only flat-petalled, larger-flowered, scented clematis in cultivation. In addition to the beautiful scent, the flowers put on a stunning show with blue, star-shaped blooms that develop silvery-white central stripes as they age. I stumbled across this beauty recently at the Glas Horticultural Trade Show and it is being grown and supplied by Amour Nurseries in Kildare.

This is certainly a climber to look out for as it ticks so many of the boxes, it will grow in nearly all aspects, resistant to clematis wilt and has a long flowering period, blooming from April to July. It is the most delightful shade of pale mauve/blue and the scent is sweet, like honey. I asked Karen of Amour Nurseries if it was available in garden centres in Ireland yet and the answer is, yes, it is in some, so keep an eye out. To quote their website “Our range of clematis is second to none, identified by our unique labelling and is available from selected outlets from early summer till stock runs out (usually very quickly).”

Amour Nurseries also supply many plants from the Raymond Evison range of Clematis. Raymond Evison has developed over one hundred varieties and cultivars of Clematis at his nursery in Guernsey and in so doing has achieved no less than 29 Chelsea Flower Show gold medals. No mean feat when you consider that it takes ten years to develop each new introduction.

I have been growing plants from the Raymond Evison range for about twenty years and each one is a delight. What makes them that bit special is that they produce so many flowers over such a long period and they do not grow out of control, like some of their more unruly cousins. I had the pleasure of meeting Raymond at Chelsea Flower Show in the last few years at Chelsea Flower Show. As I admired his display at the show, I found myself quite literally lost in admiration and awe at the beauty of these fantastic plants.

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