Maintenance includes tying-in and mulching as well as Pruning Climbers

After care

We will be talking about pruning climbers in a moment, but I would just like a moment to mention about the aftercare and feeding of climbing plants.

Dry roots and wind are two of the things that can prevent a climber from getting a good start, walls and fences can deflect the rain away from plants making them drier than they would normally be.

Walls and fences can also direct draughts at the plants. So water freely in the early stages and cover the young plant growth if necessary with fine netting or similar.

Always keep a look out for plants that have been planted close to a wall to make sure that they get enough water in summer even when established. Most climbers will be o.k. during the winter months, but if you are growing a particularly tender climber then this may want some protection by draping a fine mesh netting over it.

Maintenance includes tying in and mulching as well as Pruning Climbers

Feeding Climbers

Once planted most people forget about feeding, but just like any other plant, climbers need feeding if not more so, because of all the growth that they put on during the growing period. Large flowered Clematis and Roses among others are gross feeders.

Bulky material such as farmyard manure, garden compost or old mushroom compost can be spread around the base of the plants in spring while the ground is still wet, this will help the soil from drying out.

A well balanced granular fertilizer such as Growmore can be spread in a one square metre area around the base of the plants in April, with another dressing in June and late July, when the demand for food will be at its height.

Tying-in is only necessary when the plants are not the self clinging or twining types. Roses probably need the most looking after. Use string as this can be easily cut when the time comes to prune them.

Pruning Climbers

Bad pruning can result in a poor growing and flowering season, so it is important to get it right.

All the popular Honeysuckles produce their flowers in a slightly different way, carried on short growths from much longer stems made the previous year. Usually they can be left to look after themselves, just cutting out some of the older growth when they become untidy immediately after the flowers fade and then giving them a good feed and watering.

Where space is restricted pruning climbers like honeysuckle can be done annually being careful to preserve as much young growth as possible.

Wisterias and Vines flower on young side growths and plants can be allowed to make a permanent framework of old stems that will get increasingly thick and woody with age. Side growths are allowed to form from this framework in summer but are then cut back to 15cm. If space is at a premium then these growths can be cut back further to 2.5cm.

Shrubs that are trained as climbers have to be pruned to lie flat against the wall or fence that they will eventually cover, most of which can be done in late summer after the plants have flowered. Long stems can be tied-in to cover any gaps. Other stems that are sticking out can be cut back to 1 or 2 buds.

Forsythia and Chimonanthus flower better on long stems, so when pruning climber like this keep as much of this growth as possible and tie in the stems. When pruning climbers that bear fruit retain as much of the fruit as possible, this should be noticeable by June-July time.

Many climbers can be left unpruned for years, but always check for dead, damaged or diseased growth and cut back as necessary, the best time usually being in February – March, unless the plant flowers in spring or early summer in which case leave the pruning until after flowering.

Ivies can be cut back at anytime, but May-June is the best when the plants can be brushed to get rid of any accumulated debris.