Plants that clothe walls, fences, pergolas and free-standing supports bring a whole new dimension to the garden - either as features in their own right or as a harmonious background for other plants
A half-hardy shrub for a sunny wall, the slender purplish stems carry elegant pendulous clusters of creamy, orange-apricot flowers each set in a rich red calyx. Flowering begins in July and continues until severe frosts. Best in good soil on a sunny wall and hardy only in warm gardens, cuttings root easily and can be overwintered inside. Raised by the former Head Gardener at Hever Castle in Kent. 1.8m (6ft)
In my experience one of the slower-growing evergreen ceanothus, reaching 3m (10ft) eventually. Arching branches are lined with small, neat, very dark-green leaves which beautifully set off the mass of clusters of small dark-blue flowers opening from red buds in spring. Cut out the longest shoots occasionally to keep the plant to size. A good host for summer clematis. Enjoys the sun. 3m (10ft).
The large ruffled bells of this prolific yet very manageable clematis are bright pink, sometimes with mauve tints, and with a darker stripe through each petal. Opening from June, their season sometimes extends even into October and the flowers are followed by fluffy seed heads in pale gold. Does not cling, so needs a little help to make the best of its support. Prune hard in spring. Best in sun. 2m (6ft).
Clematis pruning: group three
A popular and tough old favourite, its distinctive branches with their herring-bone structure are lined with tiny white flowers in late spring, and bright red berries in autumn. The tiny rounded leaves also turn red in autumn and, after they’ve dropped, the characteristic branch structure is more clearly revealed. Resilient, dependable and happy against a north wall. No pruning generally required, but needs tying in to climb well. 1.8m (6ft).
RHS advice: Cotoneaster webber caterpillars
One plant of this exquisitely fragrant daphne can scent a whole garden in late winter – the very time when we need a lift. Purple-pink buds open to almost white flowers held in clusters of up to 15 amongst dark, evergreen leaves. Although hardier than other forms, protection of a west-facing wall is ideal. Happiest in rich, fertile soil that does not get waterlogged. Upright in growth, cut back long shoots before midsummer. 2.4m (8ft).
RHS Garden Harlow Carr blog: February plant of the month
This invaluable, self-clinging, evergreen climber for a north or shady fence or wall is not one of those dark and deadly green ivies that increase the gloom of shady places. Its silvery grey-green, sharply-angled foliage is white-edged, sometimes with pink tints in winter, and brings a light, reflective look. Especially useful on walls and fences with no charm of their own. Good ground cover too. 1.8m (6ft).
One of the loveliest of climbers, this frost tender annual is easy to raise from seed on the windowsill each year and twines happily up canes or netting. In a sunny place with good soil that does not become parched it will produce hundreds of these exquisite blooms. The silky 7.5cm (3in) flowers are an extraordinary shade of Mediterranean sky blue, each with a white throat, and open from July until frost. 2-3m (6-10ft).
This near-upright pyracantha features dark, evergreen leaves setting off clusters of white early-summer flowers beautifully. In autumn flowers are followed by crowded clusters of deep-orange berries which line the branches. Scab and canker resistant, Saphyr Orange is ideal for cold walls and is happy in any reasonable soil. They make popular nesting sites for blackbirds. Prune straggly shoots after flowering. 2.4m (8ft).
Plants for nesting birds
This attractive, fragrant, self-clinging evergreen has been seen more often recently and seems hardier than previously thought. The glossy green leaves are prettily mottled and cream-edged and develop pink tints in cooler weather. For two months in summer, there are clusters of sweetly scented, white, jasmine-like flowers. Best against a warm wall. Prune in early spring if necessary. 3m (10ft).
Garden design: Urban garden plants
This perennial relative of the nasturtium features neat, lobed leaves showing off a long season of orange-yellow flowers, each with a reddish spur; blooming usually starts in July, continuing until the frost. This is a far more refined, and better-behaved, plant than the familiar climbing nasturtium. Best in rich soil, in sun. 1.8m (2ft).
*This plant is listed on Schedule 9 of the UK Wildlife & Countryside Act as an invasive non-native species
. While this does not prevent it from being sold in the UK, or from being grown in gardens, the RHS encourages those that do grow it to take great care with managing it and with disposing of unwanted material. The RHS also encourages gardeners to find alternative plants to grow to those listed on Schedule 9. For suggested alternative plants see the Plantlife/RHS guide: Gardening without harmful invasive plants