Transform your garden with climbers

Climbers are a garden's best ally that can screen, provide shade and best of all, transform a wall of cheerless concrete into a sheet of vibrant colour
Climbers are a garden's best ally. You can use them to screen, camouflage, provide shade and shelter as well as add welcome height to a flat-plane garden.

Best of all, you can transform a wall of cheerless concrete into a sheet of vibrant colour - just plant a Clematis viticella Etoile Violette this autumn, stand well back, and wait for the profusion of flowers next summer. All you need do is cut the stems back to base every spring.

Clematis armandii climber plant behind outdoor seating in garden
Winter cover: Clematis armandii has handsome leaves all year and flowers as early as January

However, if you want a clematis that blooms rather earlier - late winter, in fact - plant an evergreen Clematis armandii, which has large, oval, glossy leaves and highly scented white flowers.

This is the clematis to transform and perfume a shady patio, and provide you with fragrant flowers throughout the greyest weeks of the year. If you're planting it against a fence, copy the designers' trick and paint or stain the fence black, to give the effect of more plant, less backdrop.

A flat space is a dull space, whether garden, patio or courtyard. Bring it to life with a pergola, loggia, or even a simple arch or three spaced down the garden path, and plant an evergreen jasmine at every post to give you, within a few years, a fragrant green room.

The best-behaved climber in town, Trachelospermum jasminoides, has lightly burnished tints on its foliage at this time of year, and for weeks in summer provides masses of white blossom that looks and smells like jasmine. Given a little coaxing, this climber will entwine itself around each post before zipping across horizontal beams or twirling around the curve of an arch. It's handy smaller-scale as well, to camouflage a drainpipe, converting it into a flowery maypole.

Vines will bring more than a touch of the Med to a pergola or any garden structure. Most grapevine foliage takes on some degree of autumn colour - and bunches of grapes dangling overhead look so seductive - but if you're after stupendous autumn colour in all its glorious shades, treat yourself to vine Vitis Brant, which also produces small, sweet bunches of dark grapes.

When ground space is limited, the only way is up. Maximise on air space by installing several tall and trellised obelisks or columns directly into borders or on the terrace, fixed into deep planters.

Stained a deep, dark colour, they will make handsome vertical additions on their own, so can stand proud in winter, but will look twice as good clothed in summer clematis.

Picture an obelisk stained in Cuprinol's deep blue Iris, with the lavender soup-plate flowers of clematis Cezanne in summer, or burgundy Rich Berry, showing off new pink beauty Giselle, which flowers from late spring right through to autumn.

You can use climbers to make attractive green screens to divide a long, thin garden into smaller rooms, or just to hide the shed: use heavy-duty trellis panels and train a large-leaved ivy up each, for quick cover.

Nothing brings the country hedgerow into the town garden better than a honeysuckle such as early flowering Lonicera Belgica, which also brings in the delicious scent of honey and coconut. Leave it to scramble over an arch or the back fence, so the garden ends with a fanfare instead of an apologetic fade-out.

Get serious about underpinnings - you can't expect a clematis or vine to cling if you don't give it a climbing frame of trellis or alternatively, vine eyes and wires held taut with straining bolts. Keep an eye on climbers so you can tie them in as they grow: this is where a pocketful of twist-ties, or pre-cut lengths of soft garden twine, is indispensable.


* Wood pergola kits from Perfect Pergolas:
* Hand-made trellis panels, obelisks and planters from The Garden Trellis Company:
* Stains for colouring wood from Cuprinol's range of Garden Shades;

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