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On the hunt for walls and fences

Clematis montana
Clematis montana

At some point we all experience the trials and tribulations of moving house, usually in connection with going for a new job, or as we get older we no longer need a large home so we down size to a smaller house.

Once settled in the keen gardener can analyse the existing garden’s merits or if the move was to a new build home then the garden can be designed from scratch.

The priorities are usually drives, paths, lawns, then borders, shelter, patio, and then vegetable and fruit garden.

Size has a lot to influence how many of those must have plants we can fit in, so we need to utilise all available spaces.

Solanum crispum

Walls and fences can all accommodate a few plants and this helps to blend the home into the landscape.

Traditionally north facing walls were the most difficult to find a good plant that was happy with lack of sunshine, but then the south facing walls allowed us to experiment with the more exotic plants looking for a hot spot.

When planting against a wall it is important to give the plants a good start, so excavate the planting area a foot deep and fork up the subsoil before replacing the top soil, with some good compost added in.

If you are planting the more exotic plants such as vines or figs add some stones or gravel in the bottom of the pit to improve drainage.

Delosperma nubigenum on a dry wall

After planting give the plants some fertiliser to boost growth to help them get established, and keep them watered in dry spells in the first and subsequent year.

North walls will be fine for most plants, but some are better than others.

The firethorn, Pyracantha Orange Glow was always a favourite.

It gets smothered with bright red berries in the autumn which will feed the blackbirds for weeks and the bees just love the flowers in spring for their nectar.

It makes a dense climber, great for nesting birds but needs support and some winter pruning.

Delosperma cooperii on a wall

Hydrangea petiolaris will also be fine on the north wall but again it will need support.

Most Camellias are fine on north and west walls but not east due to danger of sun scorch on frosted buds, and south walls may be liable to drying out.

Virginian creeper can go on a north wall and has great autumn colour, but it can be very rampant once it gets established.

Clematis can go on any wall, but again some varieties like Clematis montana love to ramble, and climb through anything in its path.

Climbing shrub rose Gertrude Jekyll

Another three rampant climbers for wall and fences are the yellow Jasminum nudiflorum, the scented honeysuckles and the Chilean Potato vine, Solanum crispum.

Some climbing and shrub roses can be trained up walls in any aspect, but they are so numerous that you need time to study rose growers catalogues as they bring out new varieties every year, and now they are concentrating on disease resistance as chemical control is falling out of favour.

As well as flowers and berries walls can also be used for fruit production.

Perfect places for a Bramble such as Helen, or you can train apples, pears, peach Avalon Pride, (all grown as fan trained,) cherries and fig Brown Turkey to grow and crop on a fence or wall.

Bramble Helen July 2018

Grapes can also benefit from the warmth of a south facing wall and it is hard to beat Brant, though the bunches are not big, but the black grapes are sweet and juicy.

Grapes can be very vigorous so need constant summer pruning to restrict growth and let the sun shine in to ripen up the grapes.

Tall stone built garden walls can be planted with the succulent Delosperma which is happy to grow from shoots pushed into cracks between stones where they will root.

They are quite drought tolerant.

Outdoor grape Brant 2018

Delosperma nubigenum hugs the wall and is smothered in yellow flowers in late spring, and the other variety Delosperma cooperii has purple flowers.

Wee jobs to do this week

Protect strawberries from birds, slugs and soil splashes in wet weather.

The strawberry season is now upon us.

I have been picking my early variety Christine since late May but it had been growing under a low polythene tunnel for warmth and protection.

Anna sampling the first strawberries

Normal varieties will crop from now for early varieties (Honeoye) and continue as mid season (Elsanta) and late varieties (Florence and Symphony) come into season, then finally the perpetual autumn varieties such as Flamenco will crop till October.

Protect the rows from birds with nets and lay straw along the rows to prevent soil splash damage and if slugs and snails are a problem sprinkle some pellets along the rows.