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Climbing Plants


Once you discover the glory of climbing plants you will be forever committed to building trellises, arbours and just about anything to form a structure on which plants will grow. Introducing this "vertical" element to the garden opens up all sorts of new possibilities.

Providing the proper support for climbing plants will depend upon the climbers you choose. There are self-clinging vines, twining vines, those that send out tendrils which attach themselves to things and those which simply grow tall and leggy and need something to lean on. You must know their growth habit in order to provide the proper support.

Self-clinging vines will require a brick, stone or masonry wall on which they can hang on to by means of rootlets or claw-like disks. Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata), Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) , Baltic Ivy (Hedera helix) and climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) are examples of these. It is untrue that clinging vines will draw the moisture out of brick and cause it to become brittle. The rootlets which attach themselves to walls are unlike the actual roots beneath the surface which take in moisture from the soil.

Self-clinging vines are generally deciduous perennials which increase their spread each year. They require little or no pruning except to keep the spread in check and prevent total coverage of windows when they grow on the side of homes. Pruning should be done in early spring, prior to bud break. Future growth needs to be considered when making the pruning cuts since they will branch at the buds below the cuts.

Twining vines require a trellis or strong vertical supports on which they can twist around and grow upwards. Silver lace vine (Polygonum aubertii), Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia durior), Honeysuckle vine (Lonicera x heckrottii), all types of Clematis (Clematis sp.) and Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda & W. sinensis) are some perennial examples of these. Morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea), Moonflower (Ipomoea tricolour) and Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineau) are three examples of annual, twining climbers.

Plants with tendrils require a trellis, wire or other plants on which to cling. Grape vines (Vitis sp.) and many annual vines such as Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus) and Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) will grow rapidly and sprawl beyond their supports if not controlled.

Climbers are opportunistic plants which use structures and other plants to support themselves and grow towards the sunlight rather than taking the time to grow the woody support stems themselves. The energy they reserve is steered towards rapid, elongated growth.

Some climbers will lose their vine characteristics and become shrublike forms if supports are unavailable. Euonymous fortunei is an excellent example of this. Climbers such as Virginia creeper, English ivy or Memorial rose will be content to sprawl along the soil surface and act as a ground cover until they reach a structure which they can climb. Climbing roses produce no method to support themselves but rely on having a structure nearby on which they can lean. If support is not available their growth will be stunted and they will become shrub-like in form.

Climbing plants are useful additions to the garden for both their floral attributes and leafy cover. They can provide screening, cover an unattractive wall or vista or add a spectacular splash of colour against a trellis, arbour or wall. They may also be used to grow over and amongst other perennials and shrubs which have flowered early and no longer serve an ornamental purpose. Clematis, for example, can be trained to grow up the stems of Delphinium and provide a late season flower display after the Delphiniums are finished. Wild cucumber plants will seed themselves everywhere if left unchecked, but when transplanted to suitable locations, they will provide a light dusting of delicate white flowers growing over the tops of non-flowering shrubs.

They say that good fences make good neighbours. Flowering screens make even better ones.

Daisy Moore, 1999.



Other summer garden tips:

(click on the tip you want to read)


Extreme Conditions
Growing Roses
Summer Lawn Care
Propogation by Cuttings
Sources of Native Plants
Making Sense of Fertilizer Labels
Annual/Perennial Combinations
Climbing Plants
The Dry Garden
Ornamental Grasses
Chooosing A Good Gardening Book
Companion Planting
Preparing the Compost for Fall Use
Getting the Most out of your Vegetable Garden
Repairing Lawns From Summer Stress
All About Grubs
All About Onions
Useful Herbs for the Home Garden
Screens and Hedges




Home  |  Garden designs  |  Naturalized gardening  |  Help with your garden  |  Garden Tips Spring  Summer  Fall  | Contact Daisy


Daisy Moore 2005