Garden Designer's Favorite Climbing Combinations for Your Garden

Garden Designer's Favorite Climbing Combinations for Your Garden

Trellises, arbors, fences, and outbuildings are structures that make gardens feel like gardens, even when they are completely bare in winter. Nothing can substitute for these "bones" of the garden, as any perennial border without them can look like a heap of dirt here for four months of the year. So often the simple addition of a vertical support strikes a needed accent, and can be installed in minutes. As an example, we have one "trellis" that began life as part of a discarded iron table. With no investment but a can of flat black spray paint, it looks as pretty in January with snow on it, as it does laden with "Scarlett O'Hara" morning glories at the height of June.

Having stressed the necessity of including permanent garden ornaments and supports, it is such a luxury to adorn the framework of a garden with flowering plants and shrubs. Any vertical element can be targeted, even something as ordinary as a mailbox post, or a chicken pen. In Pennsylvania, we are fortunate to have conditions permitting climbers to bloom from April all the way through to October. Many of them can be grown together to create striking, continuous displays. This can go well with your hanging egg chair in the Spring and Summer months like our french grey egg chair

To plan thoughtfully for a succession of bloom you need to understand how various cultivars grow.

Consider honeysuckle. Honeysuckles will twine a little but usually need to be tied to supports and trained occasionally for direction. Recently introduced varieties, such as "Blanche Sandman" or "Serotina" have been specifically engineered to not swamp other climbers, and can successfully be paired with roses and clematis. The old-fashioned type would engulf and kill an unsuspecting and obedient neighbor.

One piece of advice that is exchanged between gardeners is that you should never plant a climbing rose without planting a clematis shrub in the same hole. This holds true in Pennsylvania, but with one exception. "Sweet Autumn" clematis is too vigorous for most roses and should be corralled alone. Having said that, no garden should be without it, because it blooms later and more gratuitously than any other climber we've seen. All you need is a careful eye and a trusty set of pruners to keep it in check once a year.

Remember traditional wisteria? It was stealthy, and not merely steadily, but relentlessly, invasive. You should smile then, remembering that the "Desperate Housewives," on the famous television drama are wired so similarly and live on "Wisteria Lane." But brace yourself. There is a new hybrid, "Amethyst Falls" wisteria, which stops growing at around nine feet. Even better, it re-blooms! Of course, these improvements could not come without a price. The climber has very little fragrance, and the blooms have a "succulent" quality. The texture is just "off." Check out the look of some "hens and chicks" and you'll know what I mean. Having said that, it can be combined with a traditional wisteria and hold its own, plus allow a permanent structure to punctuate the garden more frequently.

"New Dawn," rather than "Mountain Laurel," should be the official State plant of Pennsylvania. Every time I run across a gardener bragging about a climber that has grown to twenty feet high, and across, I shock them by guessing, "New Dawn?" You can plant it in clay, gravel, dirt, or compost, and soon it will engulf anything nearby. To train it '" in the second year you can actually tie it to itself! Within three years, although sellers boast it will grow up to ten feet, in Pennsylvania they will easily grow to twenty.

Here are some suggested combinations that don't require the gardener to mitigate too often:

1. "Blanche Sandman" honeysuckle and "Zepherine Drougin" climbing rose '" After two years, you might have to wrestle the honeysuckle to leave enough air for the rose. The rose will bloom early and late, and the honeysuckle will bloom in-between. When they overlap, the hot pink will create harmony with repetition.

2. "Comtesse de Bouchard" or "Jackmanni" clematis paired with any climbing rose. These are non-invasive clematis and bloom on and off throughout spring and fall.

3. "Amethyst Falls" wisteria with "Winning Circle" climbing roses. This will ensure a constant bloom throughout the season. As a bonus, large rose hips present themselves in October and can be used in recipes or floral arrangements.

4. Any fruit tree "whip," trained to an arbor or hoop with honeysuckle, clematis, and climbing roses. Choose a fruit tree that flowers the colors you like best and then decide on your companion climbers. Nip off any part of the fruit tree that doesn't adhere to your structure so that it gives its companions the air that they need.

5. Morning glories and tomatoes. Yes, you can successfully combine these two in your garden if you are willing to trim the morning glories back hard, mid-season (July.)

Now get out there and adorn your structures! If you have outbuildings that are not welcoming enough for your "clingers" tack nylon tennis netting across the side and roof.

With a small amount of effort on your part, you'll find that the climbers are wired to climb. They want to figure it out, and will display tenacity and grit. The end result can be as humbling as it is gratifying. Get started, and have fun.

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