Do climbing plants damage vertical walls and fences?
As the RHS Chelsea Flower Show gradually fades into memory, most garden lovers are experiencing an emotional high. The boost of enthusiasm generated by what might be the greatest flower show on earth will remain long after the gardens have been dismantled and hopefully re-homed. So, nows the time to act in order to make hopes and dreams turn into reality. Early summer is just about here, and glorious gardens await your attention!
Erase your fences!
If theres just one idea to take away from show gardens, its all about vertical boundaries. Hiding your fences can be a wonderful thing. It takes away the feeling of confinement and opens the garden gate as far as the imagination can see. Shrubs fulfil a really important role when it comes to structure and also screening. But even more specifically suited to vertical clothing and cladding are climbers.
The Welcome to Yorkshire garden at RHS Chelsea managed to cover all boundaries that adjoined a South African-style garden.
The Welcome to Yorkshire garden
on RHS Chelsea Flower Shows Main Avenue,
was a very good example. Designer Mark Gregory
stated that clothing the boundaries in order to screen the adjacent South African-themed garden was the most difficult task of all. It was fully achieved through effective planting, winning a coveted Gold medal
in the process.
What's to love about a fence?
Even the smallest garden or courtyard is likely to have vertical walls or fences. Lets face it, a wooden fence panel is an ugly sight to behold. A few Clematis
scrambling through a climbing rose
, however, present a completely different picture.
A Clematis makes a great climber against an ugly fence panel and is so easy to grow.
Think in multiples
Dont be tempted just to plant one climber.
Youll want several growing vertically, even in a small garden. Just imagine laying a single fence panel flat on the ground and you will see what a large area of planting you can enjoy. Many people still think of fence panels in terms of feet and inches with regard to size, and a six foot square panel therefore has an enormous potential planting area of 36 square feet! Multiply that around your boundaries and you will have dozens of opportunity for a great vertical show.
Bougainvillea! Here's an unusual climber that will flower its socks off all summer provided it's placed in a sunny spot. You'll have to protect it during winter though.
But do climbing plants damage structures?
The short answer is no
and yes. If the pointing on brickwork is poor, a clothing of climbers that use self-supporting glue in the form of rootlets, is not a sensible choice. The little roots are likely to penetrate into the mortar and push it apart. Likewise, if left un-pruned, a rampant climber can cover drainpipes and even work its way under roof tiles which can dislodge them.
Vertical walls are another way to clothe an ugly wall in plants. There are many systems available.
Twining climbers offer a solution
Many climbers, however, need to be tied to a support and their roots do not, therefore, attach themselves to a structural surface. Some have tendrils which wrap around suitable cable or supports so that they can stay upright and attempt to reach the sun. This type of climber does not harm brickwork. Some say that any sort of climber on a timber fence will speed up the process of wood decay as climbers tend to trap moisture in. However, others feel that the plants actually protect the fence against wind and rain and therefore help it to last longer. The jury is out, but most people feel that the effect of masking an ugly boundary is certainly worth any potential shortening of fence panel life.
Clematis montana won't damage brickwork but it can grow rather large and tangled.
Types of climbers
Those with aerial roots include ivy
and virginia creeper
and these will cling naturally to surfaces. Hydrangea petiolaris
is another popular climber which attaches itself to a vertical structure. These all tend to leave marks if they are removed.
Climbers with twining tendrils need a trellis, support or framework to which they can form attachment. In the absence of anything suitable they will seek out protrusions, but if theres nothing small enough they tend to flop to the ground. Plants using tendrils include Clematis, honeysuckle
, Wisteria, Trachelospermum
and sweet peas.
These plants will also twine around themselves and other plants so they need to be kept organised so they dont form a tangled mass. Pruning of some sort is generally necessary.
Clematis are wonderful climbers with an array of different habits and flower shapes.
Wall shrubs can also be trained as climbers, including the so called climbing rose but also Pyracantha
and Ceanothus. Even apple
and pear trees
can be trained up walls by pruning into a cordon, fan or espalier shape
. They represent a greatly productive way to cover up your boundaries! These will need to be regularly pruned in order to keep the shape and form that you prefer, so although they are not maintenance-free, they are certainly a great option.
Pyracantha are prickly beasts but can look wonderful if pruned against a wall as a climbing form of shrub.
Whatever you choose (and why not experiment?), plants grown specifically to cover walls and fences are well worth the time and effort. Just remember to water them well during their first season as theres often a dry area where rain rarely penetrates. Then sit back and enjoy a visually boundary-free garden!
Cover your boundaries in plants to give an impression of limitless space.