Climbing CombinationsAlison Marsden
Most gardens contain a smattering of climbing plants decorating house walls or reducing the impact of metres of wooden fencing. But there are plenty of imaginative ways to use climbers to provide more colour for a longer time if you use plants in combination. In this blog I explore a few different ways of getting more colour and joy into your garden with climbing plants.
Climbers through trees & shrubs
It might seem more complicated to look after climbers if they are scrambling up through trees and shrubs rather than isolated on wires or trellis. But make a wise choice and you can have two sets of flowers in the same space, or decorate an evergreen shrub that provides winter structure with summer flowers (and surprise your friends with your amazing flowering conifer!).
Great combinations are Clematis through Rhododendron, a Rose growing into the canopy of an apple tree or annual climbers like Sweetpeas or Nasturtiums scrambling over a shrub grown for coloured foliage. How about orangey-red Nasturtiums shining out against a purple leaved Cotinus? If you are feeling brave!
You can also stick with climbers growing on man made supports: walls, fences, pergolas and obelisks, and plant two different plants to grow together. Once again this gives you the opportunity to double the flowering season with a late summer flowerer or a climber with great autumn leaf colour, like such as an ornamental Vine, grown over Wisteria.
For a double hit of colour, albeit only once in the year, blend two plants the flower at the same time to provide either a contrasting or complementary colour scheme. Two of the most popular climbers rise to a new level if you combine a Rose with a large summer flowering Clematis.
Finally, in a similar arrangement to adorning evergreen shrubs, you can add annual climber to grow through a permanent evergreen climber, for example Morning Glory supported by Trachelospermum. The former provides showy flowers while the latter has subtle white flowers that offer up a sweet fragrance.
Plant the two specimens at least 60cm apart to give each the chance of establishing a root system without competition for water. Two climbers can be planted at opposite ends of a trellis and grow to meet in the middle. A climber that you want to grow through a tree or shrub is best planted away from the trunk and guided directly into the lowest branches. An annual does of fertiliser and a mulch of compost or similar well-rotted organic matter will keep both plants healthy.
If combining two climbers together the simplest choice from a maintenance point of view is two plants that can be pruned at the same time so that you not trying to unpick stems that are twined around each other. If you need to prune an early flowerer after the flowers fade whilst its companion is still carrying buds for a later display, then it simplifies pruning if the plants have very different stems so that there is no confusion over what you are removing with each cut.
Care is needed when removing the remains of annuals from a permanent climber that you want to keep. Just pulling from the base of the stems can bring both plants down together if the annual is closely twined around the stems of the supporting plant.
So let your creative juices flow and create your own Climbing Combinations.
Happy Gardening from Alison
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