Cover Up for Winter
Cold, dark winter days can be depressing, but with a few well-chosen climbers to dress up your screens, boundaries, and bare-stemmed trees, this can be an exciting and beautiful season.
Often overlooked or dismissed as too common, ivy comes into its own in winter, with beautiful leaf shapes and bright colors. Grow it over an arch for a spectacular foliage effect.
When to Start: Autumn
At Its Best: All year, especially winter
Time to Complete: 1 day to make arch; 1 day to plant
- garden arch (kits are available)
- well-rotted organic matter, such as manure
- garden twine
- ivy plants, good choices include: Hedera helix ‘Cavendishii’, ‘Glacier’, ‘Oro di Bogliasco’, and Hedera colchica
- winter greens
Erect an Arch
When bold foliage is at a premium, ivy has plenty to offer, with plain or variegated, and large or small leaves. Select a tall cultivar of Hedera helix or the large-leaved Hedera colchica for an arch. Either buy a preassembled arch, or make one from a kit and erect it close to a screen, over a bench seat, or to frame a view.
Plant the Ivy
Select an ivy with long stems, and check the label to make sure that it will grow large enough to cover the arch. Enrich the soil around the arch with organic matter, and plant an ivy about 12 in (30 cm) away from each side. You can also plant a few 12 in (30 cm) from the fence or wall. Plant the ivies at the same depth they were in their original pots.
Use garden twine to tie the stems to the arch; they can be removed once the stems have taken hold. Water the plants frequently and trim any wayward stems in spring and summer.
The winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, is really a wall shrub, but its long, lax stems are easily trained over trellis or on wires to cover screens and fences. Masses of starry golden yellow flowers appear on bare stems in late winter and early spring, but unlike summer jasmine, they are unscented.
Choose a spot that will be in full sun or partial shade in the winter to encourage the best blooms. Note that areas that are in sun in summer may be shaded later in the year, so check your aspect carefully. In autumn, dig well-rotted organic matter, such as manure or homemade garden compost, into the soil before you start, and plant the jasmine as for wall shrubs. Winter jasmine’s tough little flowers continue to bloom even when dusted with frost. During dry spells, keep the plant well watered until established, and feed with a shrub fertilizer each spring.
Exquisite blooms set amid evergreen foliage are the star qualities of winter-flowering clematis. Plant them in a sheltered site because they don’t tolerate low temperatures.
Clematis armandii has sweetly scented white or pink flowers and long, slim, dark green leaves. In some areas it may stay quite compact, but when fully established and in a suitable location, it can grow through a large tree. Clematis cirrhosa, with its freckled, cup-shaped flowers, can be equally vigorous in ideal conditions. Although these clematis are less likely to fall prey to clematis wilt, it is still worth planting them deeply in well-drained soil, just in case the disease strikes.
Water well during dry spells for the first year until the plants are established, and clip untidy growth lightly after flowering. The lower leaves of Clematis armandii may turn brown and fall, which is a characteristic of this plant; use another climber or shrub to disguise the stems.