Design Ideas for Climbers and Wall Shrubs

Discover colorful options for making climber plants and wall shrubs a part of your garden design.

Wisteria

Wisteria

The Asian species of wisteria need a strong support for their massive woody vines.

Climbers and wall shrubs are versatile plants, perfect for decorating small gardens where space is tight or for covering large structures and screens. Prized for their lush foliage, they also offer a variety of decorative fruits and flowers.

Providing Walls of Scent

The beauty of a scented climber is that the blooms are perfectly placed at nose height. The choice is vast, with climbing and rambling roses producing a range of heady scents. Deciduous honeysuckles (Lonicera periclymenum) and jasmines (Jasminum) are also hard to beat for fragrance, while scented evergreens include the star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides). Wisteria’s purple or white lanterns of flowers reign supreme in the spring, blessing gardens with a rich scent. Best grown on a sturdy pergola or frame, this towering beauty needs plenty of support.

Creating Leafy Screens

When grown up a wooden or chain link fence or a trellis, climbers offer a fast-growing alternative to a hedge. These hybrid fence-covering hedges are known as “fedges,” and ideal plants include ivy (Hedera helix) and the deciduous Virgina creeper (Parthenocissus). For a shady wall or fence, try the climbing hydrangea, which produces a leafy screen with flat, white flowers. The stunning pink, white, and green Actinidia kolomikta is a great choice for a sunny site.

Decorating Structures

Soften the hard lines of a pergola, arch, fence, or shed with a veil of braided stems, textured foliage, and flowers and fruits for all seasons. Wire up vertical supports for twiners, and ensure your structure will take the weight of heavy-limbed specimens. Try combining two varieties, but check plant labels for vigor to ensure one half of a climbing pair will not swamp the other. Also consider wall shrubs, such as Pyracantha, which makes screens of spiny stems, evergreen foliage, and masses of fall and winter berries. 

Adding Height to Container Displays

Climbers are not just for beds and borders. In a courtyard or on a patio, create focal points with large pots of annuals. Traditional flowering climbers, such as sweet peas, are ideal for an English-garden design, supported by a tripod of rustic canes. For a contemporary effect, choose an unusual flower shape such as Rhodochiton. Patio clematis are also worth considering, their compact growth festooned with summer flowers.

Climbing Through Trees and Shrubs

Deciduous trees provide the perfect hosts for large scrambling climbers like roses and early-flowering clematis. These vigorous plants will need a little support from bamboo canes at first, but once latched onto the tree branches, they will soon find their way up through the canopy. Choose pairings of trees and climbers carefully to give a long season of interest with flowering seasons in quick succession. For summer and fall color, add a late-flowering species, such as the flame creeper (Tropaeolum speciosum). Adorn shrubs with more compact climbers; try a scrambling annual like the cup and saucer vine (Cobaea scandens), or in a tropical-style garden, choose sizzling orange Eccremocarpus flowers.

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