Climbing plants are a great solution for covering a wall, fence, hiding an unsightly area or a great way to add interest to an area where ground space is limited but you have vertical space ready and willing to showcase some interesting plants. Bare walls and fences can be somewhat uninteresting and provide little in the way of habitat for wildlife but with the addition of some climbing plants you’ll create a nesting area for birds, a place for bees to shelter from extreme weather and perhaps somewhere for butterflies to hibernate in the Winter and that can all be achieved from just one plant. I’ve put together a list of some of my own favorite climbing plants that help look after our wildlife friends and look great in your garden. A real all round winner is the Honeysuckle - or Lonicera, famous for its beautiful fragrance and flowers. It is quick growing so it will cover a wall or fence in a short enough time. The native variety has tubular white flowers, tinged pink outside, fading to yellow and is happy to grow in sun of partial shade and can eventually reach around 20 feet. It’s a deciduous plant and has a real classic cottage garden appeal often seen grow in hedgerows. Honeysuckle can provide lots of nectar for pollinating insects, berries for birds in the Winter and a place for birds to nest - a hardy plant that looks great planted with roses. It will need some support to climb - a trellis or horizontal wires - and once it becomes established you can cut it back after flowering by one third.
For an evergreen climber that’s easy to grow it’s hard to beat some climbing Ivy. It provides shelter for nesting birds and hibernating insects, nectar for pollinators like bees and butterflies, berries for birds and leaves for caterpillars. Ivy is a great tough plant, will tolerate coastal exposure, happy to grow in sun or shade fully hardy and will have colour all year round. There are lots of varieties to choose from, some with green leaves and some variegated - Gold Child and Gold heart have nice green and gold foliage - some types will have quite large leaves - Glorie de Marengo is green and cream with large leaves - but a great plant for covering walls - it’s self clinging so won’t need extra support, very easy to grow and can act as a good backdrop to deciduous plants like Clematis so you have some colour at all times of the year. Pyracantha is another excellent plant for attracting and looking after wildlife. It’s not a true climber as such but can be trained up against a wall or fence - tying it into a trellis or horizontal wires or some climbing plant support. They’re an evergreen plant with beautiful white flowers late Spring early Summer which are followed by small berries of red, orange or yellow in Autumn into Winter depending on the variety. A real tough plant that’s easy to grow and sometimes selected for areas where other plants might not grow and happy in sun or shade. They have thick thorny growth which is ideal for small birds to nest in, feeling well protected and sheltered with the extra benefit of having some berries to feed on through the cold Winter months. So between the flowers providing pollen for bees and pollinating insects in Spring and Summer and, providing nesting space and berries for our feathered friends Pyracantha is a great, easy to grow addition to your garden. A few other noteworthy climbing plants to consider that are of great benefit to wildlife include Climbing Hydrangea - excellent for attracting hoverflies and other beneficial insects, Star Jasmine - providing shelter for birds and insects and Wisteria. When planting climbers at the base of a wall be mindful that the area at the base of a wall can be poor enough soil and very free draining with rubble material close to the wall, so dig in plenty of compost and keep well watered until the plants establish and if possible plant your climbers out from the wall about a foot and a half to avoid the rain shadow effect from the wall or fence and once established these plants will serve you well with little maintenance along with being a refuge for our wildlife friends.
A few jobs for the coming week -
- Now is a good time if you want to cut lavender for drying - pick newly opened flowers for the best fragrance, then hang up in a cool, dark place
- If pots and containers have got a bit tired or untidy with recent wind and rain you can re-do them with some simple bedding plants - still months of flowering to be had
- Hoe and hand weed any beds to keep on top of weeds and prevent them going to seed and spreading more weeds - they should wilt quickly in this warm weather
- Lawns can be given a straight feed of Osmo Pro 1 that’ll green them up without forcing growth and give you a nice healthy lawn
- Take summer cuttings of your favorite shrubs - Hydrangeas and fuchsia and lavender are a good choice for taking slips
- If you’re growing Coleus pinch out the flowers to help maintain the colourful foliage