Onward and Upward: How to Plant Climbers

Planting climbers is one of the projects that gives you the most bang for your buck. All it takes is some inexpensive materials and a few hours of your time, and soon enough you'll have added beautiful, vertical interest to your space.

Vibrant Sweet Scented Honeysuckle

Vibrant Sweet Scented Honeysuckle

2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - Garden Design

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

This honeysuckle will eventually produce a mass of evening-scented flowers, loved by bees and moths. Good ground preparation will ensure that the plant won't run short of water, which can lead to powdery mildew.

Walls, fences and trellis offer planting space for a wide range of climbers and wall shrubs. Using plants vertically is especially important in courtyard gardens, where space is at a premium. Flowers and foliage soften bare walls and privacy screens, and create potential nesting sites for birds. Be careful of over-vigorous climbers that could overtake their space.

It should take you less than two hours to plant a climber.

Materials Needed:

  • eye screws
  • galvanized wire or trellis
  • border fork and spade
  • bulky organic matter
  • granular fertilizer
  • bamboo canes
  • garden twine
  • trowel or hand fork
  • bark mulch

Preparation for Planting

Before soil preparation, attach eye screws and horizontal wires, or a trellis, to the wall or fence (image 1). Set the lowest wire about 20 inches above soil level, and space the wires 12–18 inches apart.

Dig over a large area around the planting site with a hand fork. Work in plenty of bulky organic matter, such as well-decomposed manure or compost, to combat dryness at the base of the fence (image 2).

Apply all-purpose granular fertilizer to poor soils (follow manufacturer's instructions). Water the climber generously a few hours before planting (image 3), or plunge the pot into a bucket of water.

Dig a planting hole 18 inches from the fence, and twice the diameter of the root ball (image 4). Make sure the depth is the same as the original container level. Clematis should be planted 4 inches deeper.

Planting and Aftercare

Arrange a fan of bamboo canes behind the planting hole, leaning them back toward the fence (image 1). The canes will lead the climber's stems up to the horizontal wires and spread them over a larger area.

Plant the climber, backfilling the hole with enriched soil. Untie the stems from their original support and untangle them carefully (image 2). Cut off any weak shoots and spread out along the canes to the places you'll attach them.

Using soft garden twine and a loose figure-eight knot, tie the stems to the canes (image 3). Train the outer stems onto the lower wires and the stems at the center of the plant up to cover the higher wires.

Firm the climber in using your fists. Then take a trowel or hand fork to fluff up the soil where it has been compacted. Next, create a shallow water reservoir (with a raised rim) around the base of the plant (image 4).

Water thoroughly (image 5), then apply a mulch of bark chips to help combat weeds, conserve moisture and keep the roots of plants such as clematis cool. Ensure the mulch doesn't touch the stems.

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