The long days of summer are often seen as an opportunity to escape from the heat with cool walks along the beach, casual barbecues with friends and a time to admire all the hard work you’ve put into the garden earlier in the year.
Creating welcoming and cool places in our gardens to be enjoyed by the whole family is something that we don’t seem to do as much as we think. If you combine this with the added quality of fragrance, then you can be sure to have an outdoor space worthy of spending most of your down time amongst the beauty of your own garden.
Utilising the practicality of climbing plants to cover arbours, pergolas, gazebos, balustrades, archways and fence lines can provide you with not only privacy, texture and colour, but also the alluring and provocative virtues that only fragrant plants can bring .
In this summer article, we take a closer look at a few unique species of climbing plants that, once planted in the garden, you will never want to do without.
The Madagascan Jasmine, Stephanotis grandiflora, has long been associated with romance with it being a favourite, (and traditional), choice in wedding bouquets. Its thick leathery leaves make it a suitable choice for full sun to light shade as well as pots. Tight clusters of pearly white, trumpet shaped blooms appear from late spring through summer and are both subtle and beautiful to experience. This is a lovely, medium sized climber suitable for archways or along fence lines where it can be easily trained to fill the space with very little care once established.
Perfumed plants bring with them an air of romance and one of the best to fit this description is the dependable Honeysuckle, Lonicera sp. There are many forms of this old world climber which are widely available on the market and one of the best is Lonicera japonica purpurea. The sweetly scented cream and gold blooms tipped in pink are produced along the many trailing stems that can easily twine themselves onto structures and supports. Its distinctive sweet fragrance is most notable during mid to late afternoon and when the air is still first thing in the morning. This is an aggressive climber that requires regular tip pruning through the growing season to keep in check, yet the miniature flowering forms; Hall’s Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica Halliana) and the pink form (Lonicera x heckrottii) or Giant Himalayan Honeysuckle (Lonicera hilderbrandianum) are far less aggressive in their growth habits, posing less of a concern to those who are uneasy about overly adventurous, vigorous climbers making themselves at home in their gardens. Honeysuckle in all its forms is wonderful for covering unsightly fence lines or can be used on balustrades where it can be clipped to form an evergreen hedge-like effect and the perfume is one of the most seductive in the garden on a warm summers afternoon.
For Clever Climbers
• Tip-prune most climbing plants during the growing season to maintain a tidy and even growth appearance. Regular pruning and deadheading will ensure thick growth and a regular production of flowers.
• Ensure a good support or framework for climbers to grow. Avoid planting at the base of evergreen shrubs or trees as this will make ongoing maintenance difficult and could weaken the host plant.
• Place perfumed climbers close to entertainment areas, pathways, doorways and windows for full enjoyment.
• Feed flowering summer climbing plants every two months with a granular slow release fertiliser such as Searles Robust.
• Where possible, enquire with your neighbours if you intend to plant a vigorous climber on a shared fence line.
• For best results with pot culture, always aim to choose a pot nothing less than fifty centimetres in diameter and adequate drainage. Always use a high quality potting mix such as Searles Premium Potting Mix or Searles Peat 80.
For the real perfume sensation during summer, one simply can’t go past growing the many forms of Arabian Jasmine, Jasmine sambac. These true jasmines are small climbing plants that will fit into most gardens, courtyards and even balconies. A couple of the most notable cultivars are sold under the name of “Grand Duke of Tuscany” and “Duchess”. They both have small, yet intensely perfumed white flowers that resemble the shape of miniature camellias and roses. The flowers are dried and used to make herbal Jasmine tea and it can be quite difficult to drag yourself away from its intoxicating scent! Many members of the Jasmine sambac family can be successfully trimmed to make attractive small shrubs in the garden or in pots.
Another old fashioned (yet uncommon) species is the Golden Chalice Vine, or Cup of Gold, Solandra Maxima. Unlike the moonflower and Stephanotis, this is a very strong growing, woody climber that is best used to provide evergreen shade on pergolas and gazebos. It can also be successfully trimmed to form a small shrub if space is not available. The giant golden flowers open from oversized balloon shaped buds to reveal an eye-catching show during the warmer months of the year and exude a warm, spicy aroma reminiscent of cinnamon mixed with roses. This climber is easily grown from stem cuttings and there is also an attractive variegated foliage form that produces metallic violet new foliage.
The Moonflower, Ipomoea alba, is an annual climber that is just perfect for near the entry to homes and in semi-shaded areas of the garden. As the name suggests the large, pure white flowers begin to open at dusk filling the evening air with its gentle, sweet fragrance. One can simply sit and watch the saucer sized flowers unfold in front of your eyes. Being a night flowering species, it attracts several (beneficial) night flying insects and is wonderful for that extra level of interest to showcase to visitors on those balmy nights. Being an annual, it is easy to raise from seed and will flower in its first season. The moonflower can be easily grown in pots if space is at a premium in the garden.
Bringing perfume into the garden is one of very best things anyone can do to capture a feeling of peace and tranquillity or to bring a small amount of luxury to transport us away to our own piece of paradise on those hot summer nights.