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Two to Tangle

By garden designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin. We often forget that a good climbing plant can turn the barest new wall or fence into a riot of colour and fragrance in just a few months.

Combine a number of different climbers and you have a long season of flowers. Remember also that some of the climbers noted for their foliage are great background plants, providing a foil for other, more showy plants. A good example of this is plain old ivy Hedera hibernica that has been put to great affect behind the brilliant white stems of White Barked Himalayan Birch Betula utilis var. jacquemontii Doorenbos.

Here are my top choices for climbers and combinations.

Jasminum officinale - you can't beat summer jasmine for a profusion of sweet smelling flowers. It can be quite vigorous but plant it where you'll sit, over an arbor or up a wall and you'll never regret it. I've mixed it with many plants over the years but love it with the blue pendent flowers of Clematis alpina Francis Rivis. Plant Jasminum nudiflorum nearby and you'll have it's yellow jasmine flowers in winter.

Parthenocissus tricuspidata Veitchii - known as Boston Ivy this is one of the fastest climbers with stunning crimson-red leaves in the Autumn. Because of its great foliage use it as a backdrop to white climbers such as Clematis Miss Bateman, Rosa Rambling Rector, an old favourite of mine or even jasmine.

Hydrangea petiolaris - this is an absolute beauty for a north-facing wall but you can grow it anywhere. It will self-cling but in my experience does not damage brickwork. Try it in combination with Clematis 'The President' or Clematis jackmanii.

Humulus lupulus Aureus and Nasturtium - now this would win a grand prix in speed growing. The golden hop and climbing nasturtiums are two of the fastest growing climbers, together they are unbeatable. It's a great one for a new border where budget is tight and you want some instant summer impact. You can grow the nasturtiums from seed sown straight into the warm soil. Even better grow them up a wigwam of canes and plant some runner beans alongside them for a partly edible version!

Vitis vinifera Purpurea - the weather is getting warmer so why not plant a vine and with any luck you may be able to eat your own grapes. Both this variety and Vitis Brant are good tasting varieties. Just remember they need a good Autumn prune each year. Mix them with lighter flowering climbers or go for the startling combination of grapes and passion flowers Passiflora caerula.

Campsis radicans needs a sheltered spot but is well worth the effort for its late Summer flowers and good Autumn colours. Campsis radicans Flava is an excellent variety and Campsis x tagliabuana madame Galen has great salmon-red flowers. These also team well with the creamier green and delicate blue of Passiflora caerulea.

April is a great time of year for planting climbers. Some of the more delicate plants can find Autumn planting a struggle. I especially find this with Clematis planted in Winter - they often die off because it's just too wet in a London soil. So get down to your local nursery and add some height and colour to your walls.

By Andrew Fisher Tomlin

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