Training plants to climb Pergolas and Arbours

Climbing plants offer fantastic colour and a great way of adding height and depth into your garden. They allow you to cover any unsightly walls or fences at relatively low cost. Climbing plants also provide a brilliant way of dividing garden spaces or creating privacy.
Use this guide to learn how to make the most of these wonderful plants and train them successfully over arbours and pergolas.
Types of climbing plants
Clinging climbing plants
These plants attach themselves to buildings and structures by using tiny aerial roots or disks which are attached to their stem tendrils. An example of a clinging plant would be Ivy. These plants firmly cling to most surfaces and are extremely difficult to remove once settled. Their firm grip can damage wood and mortar in between bricks. If you are planning to use a plant of this type make sure your pergola or arbour is far from your home so that the plant doesn’t spread and cause any exterior damage.
Grabbing climbing plants
Wonderful tiny delicate stem tendrils or leaves reach out and intertwine themselves around structures allowing the plant to become secure and stable. Example of a grabbing climbing plant would be Grape vines, Sweet Peas or Clematis.
Twining climbing plants
These plants use their stem to twist and wind around objects in order to stabilise and support themselves. Examples of a twining plant include Honeysuckle, Jasmine and Morning Glory.
How to select the right climbing plant
There are several considerations that must be made before you decide on which climbing plant you want in your garden. Please do not go on looks alone instead consider the following:

  • Does this plant like my soil type?
  • What are the flowers and leaves like?
  • What happens to this plant in the winter – will the leaves still provide coverage?
  • Does this plant prefer being in the sun or a shady spot?
  • How much pruning will be required?
  • Can my structure provide it with enough support?

Providing support for your climbing plants
Some plants such as a Rose require very strong and sturdy structures whilst others are much less demanding. Check that your structure is strong enough to support your new plant.  Vines with coiling leaf and root tendrils need small width lattice usually less than 1 inch in diameter to grab on to. If you have already purchased your arbour or pergola and are concerned that the lattice gaps are too large you can attach a piece of trellis or wire netting on to the structure which will resolve the issue and allow you plant to climb.
Quick growing aggressive plants will produce dense foliage and will require adequate support for their increasing weight.
Choose a durable pergola or arbour that has been made from materials such as redwood or cedar that have been pressure treated and are rot resistant. These products are likely to last the longest and provide strong garden trellis.
Training your plant to climb
This stage is relatively easy all you need is patience, time and a ball of string! As the plant begins to grow, start training it to go in the direction you want by gently attaching it to your garden structure with string. Before long the plant will be able to take care of itself and follow the route you have laid out for it.
Remember plants such as Roses are not natural climbers and they will need constant training and support. Research carefully how much help and assistance your chosen plant will need before you buy.
During the early stages of growth, pinch back the stems so that the plants fill out before they start to grow in height and climb. This method ensures that you get good coverage as your plant will be healthy and full of foliage from the word go.
Good Luck
Gardener Jack

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