Got a small garden?
The smaller the garden the more important the vertical surfaces around it. Vertical surfaces consisting of wall, pillar, pole and tree surfaces offer as much growing space as the ground area, sometimes even more. Climbers, also referred to as creepers or vines, provide the quickest and most efficient way of attaining vertical coverage.
A tree could take five years or more to reach maturity, but most creepers will cover a wall in two years, or even less if you use fast growing climbers.
Where to grow the climbers rests squarely on the design problem you wish to address or the effect you wish to create. Generally most people grow creepers to soften hard surfaces and introduce a touch of greenery to an otherwise bare surface. This is mostly applicable to the perimeter or house wall where the rough and rugged finish needs tempering.
Screens in form of trellises or fences meant to demarcate sections in the garden or screen out unsightly views rarely achieve their purpose unless backed by creepers. Their foliage creates a barrier while the flowers serve to detract from the plainness.
For decoration, climbers come in handy. A profusion of foliage and flowers clambering up pillars or around your window bars will not only give your house a graceful look, but also bring colour to your doorstep. Some like Jasmine have the added advantage of emitting delightful scents. In putting up sheds, carports and pergolas one needs to set up the framework as creeper foliage provides shading.
You can also raise climbers that provide fruits like passion or grape vines.
Choosing a climber
In selecting a climber, knowledge of how it anchors itself against a surface is vital. While some climbers are clingers, others will need to be supported up a wall or pillar surface. Some clinging climbers like honey suckle use the growing tips of stems to grip, while clematis, grapevines and sweet peas use tendrils growing like side shoots an. Ivies and ficus have aerial roots for cling.
Clinging roses use their thorny stems for hugging surface although they may occasionally need tying up. These clinging types are appropriate for high walls, as they will propel themselves.
Wires, hooks, nails and netting along which the climbers will be guided need to be installed before the planting is done so that the young plants are not treaded upon.
When using pillars or poles, growing climbers need not present difficulties. Never tie them unprotected, as this will cause chaffing whenever there is a strong wind. Similarly, use of a hard metal strips is discouraged as they can cut into the plant stem. Instead, tie a leather strap or soft clothing around the pole and attach the climber to it with a loose note.
Some climbers grow very fast and will colonize a given area in no time. For a small garden, this could be a nightmare and your options could be limited either planting in a container to limit root growth and consequently its upward growth or regular pruning so that it lies flat along the surface.
Watch out for ivy and ficus as the two are known to pull out mortar from the wall, hence weakening the structure.
To get the best out of your climbers, particularly the flowering and fruiting type, ensure that you regularly fertilize them with potassium rich fertilizer.