Eventually as a gardener you will run out of plantable space on your property – so what’s a girl to do when you reach that unthinkable moment? Vertical Gardening! Go up!
I haven’t hit that point just yet, but I’ve decided to embrace the vertical space in my garden before the crisis happens – call it a preemptive strike (and it’s a great excuse to buy more plants!). I’m blessed with a brick house, pool fence, an arbor that inexplicably no one ever planted and lots of mature trees, all of which can handle the weight of climbers. I’m also trying to espalier an apricot tree against the brick of the house. It’s the perfect micro-climate, which means the temperature in that space is boosted by virtually an entire zone (you can find your climate zone with the ‘Zone Finder’ on the right of the screen) and which also means I could chose a tree that is not considered hardy where I live.
Espalier, which just means you’re training a tree to grow flat against a wall or surface, is a great way to add large trees into an upright spot though it’s definitely a high maintenance proposition. In my case I’ve pruned off lateral branches and I’m wiring the remaining ones horizontally around a window. Working with trees in this medium is a longterm proposition and I foresee lots of pruning in the years to come but it will be worth it. The tree will take up virtually no space and provide loads of apricots (I hope).
If you’d rather start by working with climbing vines there are loads of options out there and they offer in some cases (annuals) almost instant gratification. I’ve teamed both annual and perennial climbers on my arbor to provide a little color while the clematis (a lovely deep purple and a magenta) fill in over the next couple years. Don’t be afraid to mix climbing plants together. The results can be very gratifying.
Before choosing and planting your climber you have to think about what structure it’s going to scramble up. I’ve placed a hydrangea up against the brick where it sends out small, root like structures that attach it to the wall.
But I wouldn’t advise this with clapboard since it can be quite destructive with the wood. An alternate? Build a trellis and run roses and clematis through it. I love the top photo where they’ve actually built a trellis over the roof.
I also have hydrangea climbing a tree. The particular variety I planted is Firefly which has not just flowers, but the added benefits of variegated foliage and reddish stems.
These can run from 30 to 50 feet so they need space to work with. An added benefit is the deer (beasts) won’t be able to reach the leaves and flowers after a couple of seasons.
So what else do I have planted around here? On the trees I have a common Ivy (I know – pest, but I love them) and schizophragma. And I tend to leave the native Virginia Creeper if I find them. They have such spectacular fall color it would be a shame to rip them out.
But there are several other clematis, roses, honeysuckle, a couple grapes (veggie garden) and a winter blooming jasmine that is said to be hardy to zone 6 (We’ll see – it survived last year but never bloomed). I can only hope mine performs like the one in the photo below.
So what are some other great climbers to try?
Perennial: Kiwi, golden hops (for all you wanna-be brewmasters out there), and wisteria but I would recommend you put it someplace manageable or seek a less aggressive native species.
Annuals: morning glory, scarlet runner beans, purple hyacinth bean (which also develop dark purple pods after flowering that look fabulous), thumbergia, cypress vine, sweet pea, nasturtium and you could always give gourds a try too.
As garden chores wind down it’s a great time to review and make plans on what to plant and what to edit while your memory is still fresh.
Thanks as always for reading EG and please drop me a comment and let me know what you think…