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Flowering climbers add much to walls, fences

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Sometimes a wall or fence needs bit of colour, seasonal interest, or simply softening. Climbers are the solution.

There are seven groups that are reliably hardy for our climate, and many cultivars within most groups, so there is plenty to choose from.

Figure out your needs first. Want an attention grabber? Simply want some green summer colour? A bit of winter interest?

How much maintenance are you up for? Some climbers require only occasional trimming of the dead and broken branches, while others need to be lopped back regularly to keep their exuberance under control. A few have very specific pruning requirements.

I’m going to cover, briefly, the flowering climbers in this column, and the non-flowering climbers in next week’s column.

Clematis, honeysuckle, and the climbing roses are our choices for the flowering climbers.
All require a trellis support. They tend to keep to a reasonable size. All are sun lovers, although clematis and honeysuckle will tolerate partial sun. All require moist well-drained soil.

Clematis flowers are striking from a distance and divine up close. If you love flowering vines, this your group. There are oodles to choose from. They come in blues, purples, pinks, yellows, and white. Some are early season flowering, most flower mid-summer until fall, and some even produce snazzy seedheads that are retained through the winter.

Clematis are divided into three groups based on whether they produce flowers on old wood, this season’s wood, or both. Pruning requirements are based on the grouping and it is important to stick with the rules, as you sure don’t want to cut off this season’s flowers! Clematis need their bases protected from the sun and heat. Plant a couple of perennials at their feet.

Climbing honeysuckle flowers are a dramatic orange-red, have a sumptuous fragrance, and last throughout the summer. We love them and so do hummingbirds and bees. They require occasional pruning to keep them tidy.
Climbing roses verge on exotic in our climate, as there are only three that are up for the task — ‘John Cabot’, ‘John Davis’, and ‘William Baffin’. They are, though, in all ways desirable. Their flowers are pink or pink-red, and are produced throughout the summer. As hardy shrub roses, they have good disease resistance, and require a tidying pruning in early spring.

A flowering vine is going to be an attention grabber, so one will likely suffice. Choose and locate it carefully, and then enjoy!

Carla Keast has a master’s degree in landscape architecture and is a Winnipeg-based freelance landscape designer. She can be reached at contact@carlakeast.com.

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