A purist might object to the term "climbing" as used in connection with certain shrubs which are often grown on walls or other supports, and indeed, there are few plants that really climb by means of special processes such as those employed by the Virginian Creeper and the ivy. Nevertheless, the term is permissible, because it implies a class available for the same uses as those to which the climbing plants are put.
Many hardy shrubs, deciduous and evergreen, are suitable for covering walls, and there are other kinds which, lacking perfect hardiness, are only safe on walls in climates where severe winters prevail. We may fairly, for the sake of ready comprehension and convenience, refer to all these as climbers. We could hardly speak of Crataegus Pyracantha as a climber; it is, however, an excellent wall shrub. The same remarks apply to the Honeysuckles and to the Cydonias.
Let us not, however, by the repeated use of the word "wall" imply a limited use to these free-growing shrubs. There are arbours, arches, summer-houses, fences, pillars, tree-stumps and pergolas to consider as well as walls. Perhaps more particularly pergolas. This is the day of the pergola. Thousands of garden-makers are coming to realize what a charming and interesting feature of a garden a pergola is. Forming a distinct break in the outline of a garden, it likewise affords support for a number of beautiful plants which might not otherwise find accommodation.
Flower-lovers who note the exquisite effect often produced in nature when the Traveller's Joy rambles over the tall thickets, or when the Honeysuckle fastens its tight grip on the hedgerow, may learn a lesson for their gardens and set in appropriate places piles of old tree stumps and gnarled branches to serve as a support for rambling plants. With a little scheming, many a rough waste corner could be made bright, interesting and beautiful.
Let us consider some of the best of the climbing shrubs in alphabetical order.
Actinidia chinensis, a modern species from China, is the best of its genus. It has heart-shaped leaves covered with reddish hairs. The flowers are yellow, about the size of a half-crown piece, and are followed by plum-like fruits in the case of the female plant.
Akebia quinata, which bears purple flowers in spring, has not the merit of brilliant flowers, but is worth including in a large collection for its quaint form. A. lobata is also grown.
Much the same may be said of the " Dutchman's Pipe," Aristolochia Sipho.
Berberidopsis corallina is a typical example of a really beautiful shrub which requires a wall in cold climates. It is an evergreen, flowering in spring, with coral-red flowers near the tips of the shoots. In mild places it may be planted on the pergola or arbour.
The Bignonias, most brilliant of climbers, include one species, capreolata, which may be grown on an outdoor wall in a mild district. Its scarlet flowers are very showy.
We have seen elsewhere that the Buddleias include some beautiful plants for the mixed shrubbery. In cold districts they might be considered for walls, particularly the two magnificent forms of variabilis, Veitchiana and magnifica, which produce long, dense, mauve or purplish flower-spikes in summer. They do best when pruned hard, like Roses, in spring, for the best spikes are produced on the new wood. Colvilei has lovely rose campanulate flowers; it should have a warm wall.
The Allspice, Calycanthus floridus, is worth growing for its perfume. The brown flowers, which appear in June, are deliciously scented. It might be grown in the angle of a wall, and such a position would also be suitable for the exquisitely perfumed Chimonanthus fragrans (syn. Calycanthus praecox), which blooms on bare wood in winter or spring, and likes a south or west aspect.
The Ceanothuses are beautiful deciduous shrubs for walls, and the finest spikes are found in the forms of azureus, such as Ceres, Gloire de Versailles, Croix du Sud and Marie Simon.
Fig. The Ceanothuses Are Beautiful Deciduous Shrubs For Walls. Colour photo by R. A. Malby.
The species Veitchianus, blue, is also very good. They thrive in any well-drained, fairly fertile soil, and will do on chalk. They should have a south or west aspect.
The Clematises are among the most beautiful of all climbing shrubs. Nothing is more charming on the autumn countryside than masses of the silvery achenes of C. Vitalba, the Traveller's Joy, which remain for many weeks a delight to the discriminating wayfarer. The flower-lover may elect to plant varieties of greater intrinsic beauty of bloom in the garden, except in semi-wild places, where he may establish C. Vitalba and let it grow at its own sweet will. C. Flammula may have a place, for it is fragrant as well as pretty. Room must be found, too, for C. montana and perhaps for the new forms rubra and Wilsonii. C. montana is truly a charming plant for a wall, arch, or arbour, blooming profusely in late spring. Its flowers are white, and are not, therefore, showy; nevertheless, it produces a beautiful effect. The new Wilsoni is larger. Rubra is red and makes a splendid pillar. There are many lovely Clematises grouped under the names of well known-species or hybrids, such as Jackmanii and lanuginosa. The former is too well-known to need description, but it may be noted that many growers fail to get the best out of it, by neglecting to prune it; only when the old flowered shoots are kept under (p. 115) and young wood encouraged does the gardener see this splendid plant in its true beauty. It might well be pruned every spring with the dwarf Roses, and with a similarity of method, in as much as the wood which bloomed the previous year could be cut back. All the forms of Jackmanii are beautiful. There are large deep violet (superba); white (alba or nivalis); and red (rubra or Madame Edouard André). These are suitable for walls or pillars. Of varieties associated with the species lanuginosa there are Enchantress, double white, flushed with rose; Candida, grey; Venus Victrix, pale lavender; and Beauty of Worcester, blue-violet, all with very large and beautiful flowers. The type has lavender flowers. These are among the most showy of all the Clematises and make splendid pillar plants, so that they could be used for the pergola. They do not want much pruning, and the flowered wood should not be cut back as with the Jackmanii set, but thinning should be practised if the plants are crowded. Another beautiful set, admirable for the same purposes as the lanuginosa group, equally large and brilliant, and suited by the same system of pruning, are those associated with the species patens. The Queen, lavender, is one of the best of these. Fair Rosamond, blush; and Miss Bateman, white, are also good. These large and beautiful Clematises can be planted to drape old trees, which in themselves are past the ornamental stage, but may make the best of supports for younger rivals.