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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, now's 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 there is just one idea to take away from show gardens, it's 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 verticalclothing and cladding are climbers.
What's to love about a fence?
Even the smallest garden or courtyard is likely to have vertical walls or fences. Let's 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.
Think in multiples
Don't be tempted just to plant one Climber You will 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.
But do climbing plants damage structures? The short answer is no and yes. If the pointing on the 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.
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.
Types of climbers
Those with aerial roots include ivy and climbers and these will cling naturally to surfaces. Hydrangea are 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 there is nothing small enough they tend to flop to the ground. Plants which use tendrils include Clematis, Passiflora and Wisteria. These plants will also twine around themselves and other plants so they need to be kept organised so they don't form a tangled mass. Pruning of some sort is generally necessary.
Wall shrubs can also be trained as climbers, including the so called climbing rose but also Pyracantha, Cotoneaser 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.