climbers | why sarah loves these

Sarah shows us some of her favourite climbers from the trials at Perch Hill, which are used as both climbers and trailers.

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One of the things we really love at Perch Hill, are growing climbers as annuals, but also not just as climbers up frames, but also as trailers, and so you can put them in the edge of the pot, and they cascade down the side of the pot, and of course without a frame, any climber is a trailer, and we grow an increasing number of these, we’ve got about 10 on trial in the garden this year.

The first stalwart that we’ve grown for years and years is cobaea. Cobaea scandens. Scandens means staircase, and this is like a classic little cup sitting on a saucer, and its English name is a cup and saucer plant, and that comes in purple and white, and the purple variety has green buds, and with the stem ends seared in boiling water this makes a wonderful cut flower. It makes a really brilliant deep window box plant, it’s got to be quite deep, but then it cascades right down the front of a house, and we use it to cover trellis and walls and frames, so cobaea is a real winner.

The next one is one of the ipomoeas, called ‘Grandpa Ott’. Now ‘Grandpa Ott’ is a really good morning glory because it’s not just for the morning, it actually stays open pretty much all day, and that’s unusual. The beautiful heavenly blue which I love, but it does close up by noon really, so this one is a fantastic climber and we have that growing with roses this year, cascading through roses like we’ve got a lovely one called ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, and it’s looking fantastic with that at the moment.

The next family of climbers that we grow lots of are the asarinas, and this is ‘Violet’. We also grow a lovely mauve variety and a white and they’re great because they really cascade down the side of the pot, or they really climb up, and we’ve got this growing up to a first floor window in the Oast House this year, which is amazing, the rate of growth that it puts on, it’s like a trifid.

A real favourite is this beautiful purple bell vine, rhodochiton, and they are literally like a bell with a clanger inside, and these we grow in lots of different ways, we grow it in a window box as a trailer, we grow it up silver birch teepees as a climber, and we use it as a cut flower with the stem ends seared for 5 seconds before we arrange it.

Another member of the ipomoea family is this (Ipomoea quamoclit cardinalis) which has got really tiny jewel-like flowers, they’re almost like jasmine flowers in the brightest scarlet, but almost as good as that, or perhaps even better, is the lacy leaf, and it looks like literally embroidered lace, it’s got the most delicate foliage, and we grow this through our tomatoes this year and it just makes the whole thing look more ornamental.

Another ipomoea is this, called ‘Spanish Flag’ in English. It used to be called Mina lobate, it’s now called Ipomoea lobata, and I love it because it reminds me of Chinese pagodas and it’s yellow at the base and flame at the top and that again is beautiful trailing and beautiful climbing and it makes a lovely cut flower in a vase. You can see it in a big, huge pot there on a silver birch tepee, and it’s the 28th of September today, so the fact that it’s still looking like that is pretty good, and we grow that in the greenhouse too where it looks splendid right the way on into winter.

This is another one we’ve got in the greenhouse, this is called Dolichos lablab, or the Hyacinth Bean, and this is much more popular in the States than it is here, where it’s grown as like a vine over outdoor eating areas. It needs a longer growing season than we can usually give it here, so this is one that we do tend to grow in the greenhouse, but it behaves like a trifid in there, and will be perennial.

Another family of climbers that I’m obsessed by are the Thunbergias, or Thunbergias, some people make the ‘G’ hard. These are just black-eyed Susans, and they used to be available in rather sort of sharp yellows and almost too bright oranges, but this one I love, and you can see it growing on the frame next to me, and it’s called Thunbergia ‘African Sunset’, and it really is like a sunset cause it opens sort of crimsony-peachy coloured and then gradually fades as the flowers develop, and so that is just such a lovely thing in a vase because you have the nice vine trailing out of the side, but also it gives you such great shape and colour on a big silver birch tepee or frame.

Cardiospermum is one of my real top favourites. It’s a bit of a mouthful its Latin name. Cardio means ‘heart’, spermum means ‘seed’, and that’s what’s so lovely about this, is in there is a jet-black seed with a perfect white heart stencilled on the side of the seed – there are 3 in each of the pods. The English name is nicer than the Latin name and it’s called ‘Love in a Puff’ and you can see why, it’s got a heart in a green puff, and that’s a really wonderful climber.

So all these are actually tender perennials, you grow them from seed – they’re very easy from seed, and so you treat them like an annual, but actually if you can overwinter them with protection, they will carry on the following year and the year after that. We absolutely love them here and use them all over the garden and they really hold their own right until the winter.

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