Still time for stand-out climbers to shine in September


It’s all going on at the3growbags’ site today – Louise is suggesting an unusual alternative to buddleia in her Great Plants this Month feature; there’s a brand new Growbag quiz to ponder with that leisurely cup of coffee (I know, I know), and below it you’ll find the answers to Quiz #1.
Meanwhile, how are your walls looking at the moment?  And your fences, and arbors, and pergolas and gazebos?  Are they languishing under a dismal-looking leaf canopy of May-flowering montana or June-flowering rambler roses, or, worse still, bare?
Well they needn’t be – there are things you can do to remedy this sorry state of affairs, and the first word that springs to mind is …clematis.
Most of the large-flowered types are looking very tired by the middle of August, though there is one called ‘Lady Betty Balfour’ – this redoubtable lady claims to flower well into November (much like myself), if you makes sure she’s in full sun, but with the usual clematis requirement of lots of water (or in my case, Sauvignon Blanc).

Super flowerer - Clematis 'Polish Spirit'
Super flowerer – Clematis ‘Polish Spirit’

Otherwise, your go-to plants are the small-flowered types of clematis – the viticellas, redherianas, tanguticas and the like.  Most of these are Group 3, which means they are easy-peasy to prune – just chop ’em right down in February or March, and off they go again with even more flowering shoots than before.  Even better, they rarely suffer from the dreaded clematis wilt.
There is one called ‘Polish Spirit’ that flowers itself silly- it’s a cracker, and I really like the look of the late-flowering one that the RHS tweeted about recently – Clematis x tritenata ‘Rubromarginata’ – this one is even scented!
But there are also other species of plants that will do your arbour proud as you sip your Pimms in the guaranteed September sun (if only).  The honeysuckle family are great for a late wall-display, if you choose carefully, though scent can be at a bit of a premium with these late-comers.
I made a short video clip on how I discovered how to make a June-flowerer like Lonicera ‘Graham Thomas’ carry its flowers and gorgeous perfume for weeks. Another honeysuckle, late Dutch (the clue’s in the name) – Lonicera periclymenum ‘Serotina’ is very pretty, and scented,and should flower into October,

Colutea arborescens - festooned with mini 'bladders'
Colutea arborescens – festooned with mini ‘bladders’

though mine rarely makes it.  Lonicera brownii ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ is unscented but looks great, as does Lonicera ‘Mandarin’.
If you need something bigger, there are the passion-flowers – (Passiflora ‘Constance Elliott’ is a lovely, and easy, white one).  I’ve also been given a Colutea  arborescent- the Bladder Senna, (purchased at Glyndebourne, no less), which boasts what appears to be decorative condoms during the autumn (more Brighton beach in June) although mine has remained obstinately modest in this respect so far.
But whatever you do, don’t plant a Russian Vine (Fallopia baldschuanica), as a neighbour of my son’s has done, unless you have at least three miles of bare fence which needs smothering in its (all-be-it attractive) white flowers in August.
Laura has some fabulous climbers on her house-walls, but I can’t remember what she has in the way of late-flowerers…….


Laura Warren
Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’

Hmmmm when Elaine refers to my fabulous climbers I suspect it is sisterly code for ‘you need a machete to get to the front door come September’ .
At the moment it is a rather magnificent battle between three heavyweights; trumpet vine Campsis radicans, Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouthand decorative vine Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’. Any gentle little late flowering clematis would be trampled underfoot by this gang.

Trumpet vine Campsisradicans
Trumpet vine Campsis radicans
17 Magnolia_flower_Duke_campus
The incomparable blooms of Magnolia grandiflora

Despite being pruned right back to its main framework earlier this this year the Campsis is making a spirited attempt to break into a first floor bathroom window with its voluptuous red trumpets erupting all over the place. The Vitis is just starting to take on its autumn hue and will be deep purple before the leaves finally drop. I have let it sprawl over a Rosa glauca and the rose hips look sumptuous against the crimson vine leaves.
Magnolia ‘Exmouth’ would be worth growing for its leaves alone. The surfaces are deep glossy green whilst the furry undersides (technically the indumentum) are russet brown. (Did you know there are three stages of being a gardener; you start by admiring flowers, you then progress to appreciating leaf form and when you start swooning over the underside of leaves you know that you have become a total horticultural nerd). When ‘Exmouth’ finally blesses you by bestowing on you one of its magnificent flowers you are in for one of highlights of your gardening year. Huge pure white cups of waxy petals fill the air around with clean sharp citrus scent – totally incomparable.

17 Hedera
Charmingly populated all year-round, our stout ivy Hedera colchica ‘Dentata Variegata’

Yes well, you can depend on me to lower the bar and in Scotland we’re focused more on a ‘handsome is as handsome does’ ethos. Folks, in amongst all the glitzy recommendations of Growbags #1 and 2 you could do worse than start with a good stout ivy.
Ours, I think Hedera colchica ‘Dentata Variegata’,  remains handsomely robust all year and provides a home for hosts of roosting birds and, as you can see, vast numbers of creepy crawlies (entomological communities to Laura). In fact, following our wedding party here at the weekend, it’s doubtless gathered a few beer cans and prosecco bottles in its dense foliage without making any outward fuss. An excellent addition to any garden. The assumption that ivy will dig into your brickwork or disrupt the foundations seems foundless to me. Just keep it under control like any climber, yah?
I did order Clematis ‘Kermesina’ online this summer from RHS Plants (all my RHS Plants purchases have arrived in great condition and very well packaged), although if you’re interested I think Taylors Clematis offer the best price for this plant.

clematis kermesina
My now beleaguered Clematis ‘Kermesina’ following honourable service all through August.

I regularly tipped gallons of fertilised water into it and it produced lovely chocolatey/clarety flowers all through August although admittedly it looks a bit moth-eaten now. I find clematis in general to be much more stout-hearted than their often fragile appearance suggests – excellent Growbag qualities.
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