By Kate and Len Lucas
For several years, we have been trying to find suitable climbers that keep their leaves all year round. Although there are lots of evergreen climbers around the world, the list of candidates for our climate is not a long one. They are important because they help the look of the garden through the winter, and for us, it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t flower – luckily some of them do.
We built a long pergola in 2019 and planted trumpet vines (Campsis grandiflora) on two of the posts. They got going just fine and then when they were about to flower at the top of the pergola they both died suddenly. These beautiful climbers are not evergreens and we have had bare posts ever since.
The replacements are very likely to be taken from the list below.
Rosa banksia “lutea” The Banksian Rose. This is a very vigorous, evergreen, thornless rambling rose which looks nothing like a rose. The flowers are small, yellow and scented. We have grown it before and it needs careful placing as it suffers in very cold weather. There is also a white form that we think is less classy.
Tetrastigma obtectum. We bought one in 2020 having never heard of it. It is an ornamental vine with small dark green glossy leaves. We planted it around the new pergola and it lost all its leaves at the first hint of frost. However, it grew back in the spring of 2021 and in the autumn this time we did cover it in bubble wrap all the way up the post. In its own climate of the far east, it is evergreen but it looks like being marginally hardy in the UK. We remain hopeful.
Trachelospermum jasminoidese. This is one of the best evergreen climbers you can buy. Truly hardy with a fabulous scent, it is described as slow-growing but that’s in comparison to other climbers. Ours will do a few feet in one year.
Akebia quinata The Chocolate Vine. So-called because it’s supposed to smell of chocolate. We do not have any in our present garden but have grown them in the past. It is, for sure, a good climber but we found that it gets into a tangle which is hard to tidy up and can lose some of its leaves in cold weather. It is worth a try if you have never grown it before.
Clematis armandii. This does need a sheltered spot and will keep its leaves and flower very early if it likes where it is. Once it gets going it will need some space to flourish. This is an expensive Clematis to buy but well worth it. The variety “Apple Blossom” is the one you find most often and has a pleasant scent.
Clematis cirrhosa. This is a vigorous true winter flowering Clematis and will keep its leaves. There are several different varieties and all are worth growing. Doesn’t look at all like a Clematis.
Hedera “Gold Heart” This is an ornamental ivy but don’t be put off by the word ivy. This plant has a lot to offer. There are several attractive ivies and we have chosen this one because it is a very bold plant.
Hydrangea serratifolia. You might come across this under the name Hydrangea integerrima. This is currently on our list of must get evergreen climbers for 2022. Very vigorous and it comes from a cool climate so should be fine in the UK – we hope.
Euonymous “emerald and gold”. You will see this on sale as a shrub but it will produce long leaders which are easy to train up a fence or trellis. We have had one on our fence for a long time and it looks just fine.
Fatshedera. This is a genuine hybrid between a Fatsia (the false castor oil plant) and a Hedera (common ivy), and that’s exactly what it looks like. It will need a sheltered spot and before long should fill it to at least 5 or 6 feet.
Most of these climbers should be available in any good garden centre.