Sue Sanderson

Sue Sanderson – our horticulturist expert

Sue Says
Before planting any climbers through shrubs there are a couple of things to think about:
1) Will one outcompete the other? – If you choose a greedy species of climber and pair it with a greedy shrub then there will be a constant struggle for nutrients and water. Remember that the soil surrounding a mature shrub will already be somewhat depleted of water and nutrients and will need improving prior to planting your climber.
2) Choose a climber appropriate to the size of your host shrub, otherwise the shrub will be smothered.
3) How will you prune the climber and the shrub? – Do they need pruning at different times of the year and will this cause damage to one another?

This sounds complicated however these questions are worth asking now to prevent having problems later on. Roses can be grown into trees and very large shrubs (8-10ft), so it is best to choose one of the rambling types for their scrambling habit. However, given that they are generally quite heavy feeders, it is important they are planted in fertile soil. This may become a problem as the rose and its host will compete for nutrients, water and light. Also be aware that many rambling roses will get very big!

The easiest climbers to deal with in this situation are those that can either be pruned to ground level annually, or those that require little or no pruning. Clematis armandii / Clematis cirrhosa – large vigorous evergreens that will require little pruning. Grow through large shrubs only in sheltered positions. Clematis alpina cultivars – ideal for growing through smaller shrubs and require virtually no pruning. Honeysuckle – twines well through larger shrubs and does not need a great deal of pruning, although some cutting back will promote better flowering. Clematis tangutica/ orientalis – vigorous twining climbers that can be cut back virtually to ground level each year. Eccremocarpus – Warm sheltered areas only as these are not the hardiest. Require very little pruning.

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