There comes a time when every gardener has to move skywards, caused by a sudden shortage of proper gardening space, especially in sunny areas. This can be a shocking development, as most of the time we garden with our heads bent down towards the soil. Now suddenly we have to tilt our heads upwards, while pondering on such mighty subjects as trellises and vines.
Clematises do well here, as many of them are hardy to zone 4 — and there really is a clematis for everyone, provided a sunny area is available. Clematises come in all sizes and shapes, but your first decision will be to decide upon either a large flower or small flower variety.
My advice is to start off with a small flower clematis, strictly because they aren’t as prone to the dreaded clematis wilt — a fungal disease that seemingly destroys a clematis overnight. The next decision is to decide how large a vine you want. Some come in the four- to five-foot range, whereas others can reach a length of 22 feet. Anything over five feet needs a trellis.
One clematis that might tempt you — but please refrain — is C. ternifolia, aka C. paniculata, and AKA ‘Sweet Autumn’ clematis. Once planted you will never get rid of it, as it’s an extremely heavy seeder. What makes it so dangerous is that it’s extremely flamboyant, crying out to be purchased.
Other trellis climbers to consider are our native honeysuckles and wisterias, with an emphasis on the word “native.” Under no circumstance should you find yourself tempted by the beautiful Japanese or Chinese versions, as they will quickly bury your house and your car. Our native versions are a bit more controllable but be prepared to get out your pruning shears — they are still exuberant.
The last recommendation we have are climbing roses. Now, roses don’t climb, but those designated as “climbing” throw out long canes. Climbers have more rigid canes than the ramblers, but both need to have their canes attached to the trellis, either by Velcro tape or clamps.
As with the clematises, you will have to choose a size that is suitable. Some roses will put out canes six feet in length, whereas others will throw out canes 25 feet in length. Again, consider the size of your fence or trellis. To place ‘New Dawn’ with its extravagant long canes on a six-foot trellis is simply inviting disaster.
Consider growing a clematis along with the climbing rose. They both have the same nutritional requirements and we find are great complements for one another.
When searching for suitable climbing roses, always insist on “own root” ones that demonstrate great “disease resistance.” If the description lacks these words, assume the rose is grafted and requires a weekly spraying during the growing season — and who wants to spray roses that are 10 feet in the air?
Skyward gardening will add a remarkable dimension to the garden. We recommend either purchasing or constructing an attractive trellis, as some of the plants can be slow to take off, and you could be staring at that trellis for a while. Remember the adage: The first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap. Patience is required — a hard requirement all gardeners must learn.