As I look out of my office window onto the paved area where my own cast aluminium patio furniture sits I can admire a fantastic scrambling clematis in full bloom. It’s been looking splendid since Easter. A paved seating area, regardless of how carefully you choose your metal outdoor furniture, can look rather stark and sterile, so climbers not only add a splash of colour but a sense of vibrancy.
If you have sited your metal garden furniture next to the house, it might be that you can use a wall of your home as a vertical surface for climbers to scramble up. Alternatively, you might have an unromantic garden fence or brick wall between your patio table and the next door neighbours. If you plant wisely, you can cover that with fragrant, pretty flowering climbers to give a sense of privacy.
When to plant
The autumn is the best time to get your deciduous climbers into the ground since the soil is still warm enough to encourage some root growth before winter. A plant that is established like this will be able to get going quickly the following spring and be more able to withstand any hot, dry spells in its first summer. That said, container-grown climbers can be planted at any time and April is a really good opportunity to get your planting scheme underway, particularly if you are planting evergreen climbers that will need to become established before the cold weather sets in. Likewise, wait until now if you are planting climbers of borderline hardiness. Remember to take the usual precautions of insulating any vulnerable climbers in cold weather – such as garden fleece.
Climbers need to climb! Make sure there is a suitable support for the climber (either something for self-clinging plants to scramble up, or appropriate trellis or wires that you can tie into. If you are planting against a wall or fence, you will need to make sure your planting hole is at least 45cm away from the dry areas to be found at their base. The hole will need to be at least twice as wide and a bit deeper than the container you are transplanting from. Feed the hole with well-rotted organic matter and if the soil is heavy clay, you can help the roots penetrate into the surrounding soil by gently pricking over the smeared surfaces with a fork to make some holes.
Depth. Read the plant label but as a rule of thumb, a climber is likely to be planted at the same depth as in the pot. One noteworthy exception to the rule is clematis. It is worth planting these an extra 10cm deeper than the pot. In this way, the base of the stems are underground and protected if the plant should be attacked by clematis wilt disease. When an infected plant dies back, there’s a good chance that it will resprout from underground buds at the base of the stems.
Planting. The usual tips apply ie water thoroughly on planting: carefully tease out the root ball to encourage the plant to send out roots into the open ground, gently press down to remove airpockets in the soil when you back fill, and untie the plant from its support cane which can be discarded, spacing out the stems and tying them into the new support system. And mulch of course!