How are your walls looking at the moment? And your fences, and arbours, 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).
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 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,
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 arborescens- 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 (albeit 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…….
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 ‘Exmouth‘ and decorative vine Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’ (see feature pic). Any gentle little late-flowering clematis would be trampled underfoot by this gang.
Despite being pruned right back to its main framework earlier 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.
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 E and L 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), and no sign yet of it digging into the brickwork or the other terrible things ivy is supposed to do.
My best late climber here in Scotland? Well Clematis ‘Kermesina’ has withstood the wind and produced lovely chocolatey/clarety flowers all through August. In fact I find clematis in general to be much more stout-hearted than their often fragile appearance suggests – excellent Growbag qualities.