Climbing high

Discover outstanding climbers to grace your garden wall, fence or arch

Whether you want to hide an unsightly fence, add height to a planting scheme, or perhaps frame an arch or entrance with beauty and scent, there is a climber to fit the bill. Here, four RHS Partner Gardens offer their suggestions on garden-worthy climbers with flair.

Dregea sinensisDregea sinensis

Louisa Arbuthnott, owner, Stone House Cottage Gardens, Worcestershire

An easy summer flowering climber that seems to have a mistaken reputation for tenderness. It is at its best on a sunny wall and can be cut hard back during the dormant season. It begins to flower in late June or early July, producing panicles of white flowers with a hint of pink.

The flowers have a curious and evocative scent. Each time I sniff I am strongly reminded of the smell of a child’s swimming bag, opened after a couple of days left under the bed – of damp towels and soggy rubber!

Holboellia coriaceaClematis viticella

Alan Gray, co-owner, East Ruston Old Vicarage, Norfolk

If I had to pick a favourite variety of Clematis, I could not for there are too many that I love! However, I can pick a group,  for the Viticellas are wonderful. Mostly small flowered, in late summer they add freshness and vitality with their abundant blossoms and are also among the easiest to manage.

Prune hard in late spring, mulch with some well-rotted manure or garden compost and tie in as their shoots lengthen. That’s all there is to it except to remember to keep their roots cool, a most important point!

Other favourite climbers:

  • Holboellia coriacea is evergreen here. A smart plant, it grows large and is therefore ideal for growing into tall trees. It bears small clusters of pale pinkish-green flowers that are discreet but but have a sumptuous perfume. This switches on in the evening and stays until the following morning and I happily grow it for this reason alone.

  • Rosa ‘Columbian’ has large mid-pink blousy flowers packed with petals and scent. We grow this on the rear wall of a lean-to conservatory with the express intention of having roses to pick on Christmas Day; it has never let me down.

  • With its clusters of large white trumpet-shaped flowers, Mandevilla laxa looks glamorous and perfumes the air in the glasshouse at the end of the day.

Trachelospermum jasminoidesTrachelospermum jasminoides

Martyn Pepper, Senior Gardener, Coleton Fishacre, Devon

We grow Trachelospermum jasminoides by the front door of Coleton Fishacre house, which is west-facing and sheltered - ideal conditions.  This plant is a little tender, but worth growing if you have a sheltered spot on a wall in a mild locality.  It has glossy evergreen leaves and scented white flowers start to appear in late June / early July. 

The flowers are twisted at the base in a similar manner to Vinca (periwinkle), to which it is closely related. We train ours by tying onto wires attached to the wall and do a little light pruning in late summer just to keep it in shape, but generally it is a well behaved climber.

Rosa helenaeRosa helenae

Austin Lynch, co-owner, Millgate House, North Yorkshire

Our favourite climbing rose would have to be Rosa helenae, the centre piece of the garden. It scrambles into an iron climbing frame, creating an outstanding display.

In summer it is undoubtedly the star of the show, with its superbly scented flowers; later, it has great foliage colour and attractive autumn hips.

We find it a 'good doer' and trouble free. It needs a regular haircut but that aside it is disease free. Remember that it needs a large home with good support!

  • Each of these gardens is an RHS Partner Garden offering free entry to RHS members (main cardholder) either throughout the open period, or at selected times. For full details, visit our Garden Finder

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