Hydrangea petiolaris at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

What Climbers Can I Plant Against A North Or East Facing Wall?

Clothe that problem shady area in flowers and scent

Hydrangea petiolaris at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

A north or east facing wall or fence can be a problem spot for a lot of gardeners but there are quite a few climbers which can clothe a wall or fence, with many of them producing flowers. These problem spots suffer from lack of sunlight, usually just receiving a little in the early morning, with no sun at all in the winter. They are however lighter than a woodland setting, so with a little bit of planning you can have a lovely area with plenty of interest throughout the year. The advantage of a shady area is that it can provide a lovely cool seating area in the heat of the summer sun. Most of the recommended plants will need some support in the form of trellis or wires spaced at 45cm (18") intervals.

David Austin rose The Pilgrim

'The Pilgrim'

Plants on an east facing wall do need some attention if there is a frost even though they may be hardy. They need to thaw out gradually as a sudden burst of morning sunlight can cause the plants to thaw rapidly and cells to rupture. So if a frost is predicted followed by a clear bright morning you may need some protection from a piece of horticultural fleece or even an old net curtain.

Actinidia kolomikta at Levens Hall, Cumbria

Actinidia kolomikta at Levens Hall, Cumbria

Some clematis lose colour in full sun so tend to look better with a little shade and there are quite a few roses and honeysuckles which will flower quite happily in the shade. Some of the plants on the list are evergreen so you can have interest throughout the year.

Solanum crispum 'Glasnevin'

If the area is under the eaves of the house or in a rain shadow the soil will probably be quite dry so consider installing an automatic irrigation system. Before planting improve the soil with some well-rotted farmyard manure, leaf mould or good quality peat-free compost, this will help retain the moisture. Also add a sprinkling of blood, fish and bone to give the plants a good start. If planting roses add Rootgrow instead of the fertiliser as the mycorrhizal fungi forms a symbiotic relationship with the rose and helps it absorb more nutrients. Mulch in spring with chipped bark, well-rotted farmyard manure, leaf mould or good quality peat-free compost.

Tropaeolum speciosum climbing through topiary at Levens Hall, Cumbria

Tropaeolum speciosum climbing through the topiary at Levens Hall, Cumbria

Recommended plants

  • Actinidia kolomikta
  • Akebia quinata (Chocolate Vine)

Akebia quinata (Chocolate Vine)

Akebia quinata

  • Chaenomeles japonica (Japanese Quince)
  • Clematis alpina
  • Clematis armandii
  • Clematis montana
  • Clematis ‘Barbara Dibley’, ‘Barbara Jackman’, ‘Bees Jubilee’, ‘Carnaby’, Guernsey Cream’, ‘Nelly Moser’, ‘Silver Moon’
  • Fallopia (Russian Vine) - fast growing, needs a lot of space, can become invasive and smother smaller plants
  • Garrya elliptica - not strictly a climber but can be fan trained against a wall or fence
  • Hedera helix - not variegated varieties as will lose variegation in the shade
  • Hydrangea petiolaris
  • Jasminum nudiflorum (Winter Jasmine)
  • Lonicera henryi ‘Copper Beauty’
  • Lonicera japonica (Honeysuckle) ‘Halliana’
  • Lonicera periclymenum (late Dutch honeysuckle) ‘Serotina’
  • Lonicera x tellmaniana
  • Parthenocissus tricuspidata (Virginia Creeper)
  • Pyracantha - not strictly a climber but can be trained up a wall or fence
  • Rosa - climbers Alberic Berbier, Danse de Feu, Ena Harkness, Felicite Perpetue, Golden Showers, Maigold, May Queen, Mme. Alfred Carriere, Mme. Gregoire Straechelin, Mme. Legras de St. Germain, Mme. Plantier, New Dawn, Vielchenblau, Zepherin Drouhin  
  • Roses  -  by David Austin ‘Crown Princess Margareta’, ‘The Pilgrim’, ‘James Galway’, ‘The Generous Gardener’, ‘Claire Austin’, ‘Graham Thomas’

David Austin rose Crown Princess Margareta

Crown Princess Margareta (image courtesy of David Austin)

  • Schizophragma
  • Solanum crispum (Potato Vine) ‘Glasnevin’ (blue), ‘Album’ (white)
  • Tropaeolum speciosum (Flame Creeper)
Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas