Home Plants Shrubs, trees, climbers

Shrubs, trees, climbers

Using permanent planting to define your garden

Shrubs, trees and climbers have the ability to transform your environment just as much as hard landscaping – and your choices will have a massive impact on the environment.

In effect, a garden is its own ecosystem and the healthiest environment is one that is diverse and contains a great variety of species.

I’ve already talked about the wonder of trees and why we should put more thought into planting them.


Climbers fall into two groups – self-supporting and those that need support. Many people feel self-supporting varieties, such as ivy or Virginia creeper, will damage the masonry and avoid them.

That’s a shame, as ivy provides an amazing environment for a host of creatures. It only flowers when growing upright, in September and October, providing vital late season food for a variety of insects, including Red Admiral butterflies, which provide an amazing spectacle.

In winter, black berries ripen, a favourite with thrushes, waxwings, starlings, finches and blackbirds – there’s not much else around at that time of year.

Climbers that need supporting give you the opportunity to create structure in your beds and borders with obelisks, or trompe d’oeil panels on walls – see my tall plants section for more on this.

Go exotic

Quick-growing climbers can also cover an eyesore in a single season – see my exotic climbers, grown from seed and capable of covering a 10ft span.

If you need something more permanent, check out my top 10 hardy climbers, from the spring glory of Clematis montana to the lime-yellow of the golden hop, which looks tremendous against a black wall.

Lastly, don’t forget sweet peas – most regular varieties reach 6ft – what better way to provide a focal point or hide an eyesore with something so beautifully perfumed?