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How Do Climbers Hang On?


By AndrewR


From time to time, there is a question posted on GOY for recommendations for climbers that don’t need support. This may sound like a contradiction in terms until you think of ivy. So does that mean that all climbers that need support hang on in the same way? No – read on.

So let’s start with ivy. Ivy makes aerial roots which attach themselves to the surfaces they find, usually a wall or fence. There are other climbers that use the same methods – euonymus (a shrub but which will cling to an upright surface) or hydrangea petiolaris. All these may need a little encouragement to make a start – I put a cane to trap any growth against a fence and the plant soon gets the idea and off it goes. Parthenocissus (Virginia creeper and Boston ivy) use suckers to achieve the same effect and needs similar encouragement when just planted.

Next come the plants with tendrils such as sweet peas and vines. The tendrils are touch sensitive and will curl round anything they come into contact with; this can be a trellis, netting or the stem of a host plant.

Many climbers support themselves by twining their stems around a support – honeysuckles and wisteria use this method. Some twist clockwise; others twist anti-clockwise so if your climber doesn’t seem to want to twist one way on the support you provide for it, try it in the opposite direction. A single wire or post is sufficient for these if you want them to grow straight up but again use trellis or netting and fan the stems out if you want them to cover a wider area.

Clematis use sensitive leaf stems to wrap around their support (even other clematis stems while your back is turned!) which seems like a very efficient method. I find that training stems horizontally at first and then letting them climb is a good way of ensuring they cover a wide area and if the stems are tied in diagonally as well, it encourage even more prolific flowering.

The final group use thorns, hooks, spines and bristles to hang on – this is a less efficient method for attaching to artificial support but works well in the wild where the plant is covering some other plant. Roses and brambles use this method and probably need more assistance in the garden by being tied to their support.

Once you know which method your climber uses, it s easy to work out what support (if any) it will need and how much help you need to give it.

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Thanks for this information Andrew, I just happen to be looking for a climber to create a 'screen' behind a new bed I'm half way through. :~))

1 Aug, 2009


Very timely blog then Ian :-)

I was out on Friday evening so recorded Gardeners World and watched it tonight. Joe Swift was using different supports for different climbers on the pergola which triggered the thoughts that led to this blog

1 Aug, 2009


I really should start to watch the tv sometimes. (I pay enough for it) I bet I could see it again on BBC's iplayer over the net!
Thanks again. IAN

1 Aug, 2009


great info andrew, amazing how they loop themselves around trellising etc, very clever nature, hard getting them off again when cutting back like one of my clematis, snipped to level then stood ages untaggling bits,

1 Aug, 2009


Adrew if you would like to add to your blog your welcome to , about Passiflora s if they are trained to go around they produce more flowers as I was informed by a chap whos family own a nersery.

3 Aug, 2009

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