If you want clear and helpful advice on growing and pruning climbers then you cannot do better than listen to Jeff Bates. This is what an attentive audience did at the Ticknall Garden Club meeting on January 10th. After many years’ experience as a lecturer in horticulture his advice is always practical and down to earth.
Climbing plants have a variety of ways of supporting themselves on any chosen background. Be it on wall, tree, fence or pergola their climbing growth can be aided by tendrils, twining stems, adhesive pads, clinging stem roots or being tied by human hand. They should be planted two feet away from their intended support so it is not too dry and importantly make sure growth starts low down for a secure and firm start.
His lovely photographs proved an inspiration for a whole range of choice in plants that climb. Akebia; the chocolate vine, Boston ivy, clematis, hop, honeysuckle, hydrangea, roses, star jasmine and wisteria are just some of them.
A simple guide to pruning common climbers
These are strong growing plants with small flowers such as alpina and montana and don’t need pruning. If you want to tidy the plant up then do it in May. To control its growth it can be pruned hard back in January but not after flowering.
These have large flowers in April to June such as Fireworks and Guernsey Cream.
They flower off old wood so only trim off the excess tangle of branches at the top of the plant in January to February.
These are large flowering such as Jackmanii and Wisley. They flower on new growth so cut back to the lowest pair of buds at ground level now in January.
The August prune is the most important when the main framework is defined and side shoots are cut back to 5 buds. He reckoned the extra short prune in February is not so essential.
Climbers need a permanent framework so once that has been created just prune back to that every year.
After flowering cut out one of the old branches to the ground to encourage new growth.