Climbers can take different forms. The growth is largely the same – they climb. How they develop, however, differs. Some need a training tool while other twine themselves by tendrils or root on the surface they will host. Ivy and Virginia Creeper both spread without any aid. Vines usually require support and weave through arbours, pergolas, a trellis or rails. Wisteria is a woody climber and has self supporting branches off which foliage and flowers fall.
Virginia Creeper – A close relative of Ivy. It’s certainly a more attractive one but no less invasive. It also has poisonous sap which is an irritant but Creepers are used effectively on gable ends and unadopted walls. As long as the rendering or brickwork is sound it offers no problem. It does offer fantastic foliage/colour but will inevitably suck the moisture out of the mortar or rendering as plants like this do. Whichever is the less of two evils. You decide.
Honeysuckle – other than keeping the size down, pruning is arbitrary. It can prevent the climber getting woody and does improves vigour but not essential. It will not seriously impede the performance until some time after. After the flowers are spent cut off straggly growth to a visible bud/leaf node. In flowering season it may even give you another show.
Passiflora – A self clinging climber that can cope without a training tool. The plant is relatively hardy as long as in a sheltered spot, although it can be thwarted by a heavy frost. Some additional protection may be in order. A south facing position or the warmest spot is suggested. Each year it is a good idea to cut close to the main frame of the climber leaving the central stem of growth with some side shoots of 3/4 bud nodes on each. There’s flexibility, obviously as long as there is some growth left, it will be fine. This is done after extreme frosts though.
Clematis – there are 3 different methods of pruning and this usually defined by when it flowers. The easiest way to categorise is simply look at the card. It will tell you 1,2,3 or what steps you need to take. With Clematis some you prune, some you don’t! For example:
C.armandii – vigourous climber. An evergreen with White flowers in Spring. So the flowers are produced on last years growth. No pruning necessary.
C. ‘Princess Diana’ – it flowers in Summer on new growth. So prune in late Winter to Spring.
Wisteria is another commonly used climber with its self clinging branches bearing highly scented flowers. The stems will twine together providing support for other weaker growth. A good practice for Wisteria is to concentrate on fewer more productive stems known as lateral shoots. In Summer or after flowering cut back to main central stems and a number of off shoot branches. Leave a number of bud nodes on this. Repeat a little after and a bit lower down the stem. It will prepare it for the following year.
There are Hydrangeas that can be trained offering attractive foliage and being tolerant of little sunlight. There are trailing and climbing Roses that offer fragrance, foliage and flowers. Jasmines too. Many of these are scented so will offer a food source to bees and other beneficial insects. Vines equally once established offer foliage and bear fruit. Very few need more than a “head start” before they are self sufficient and can fend for themselves.