Vigorous climbers and the Dead hedge project

While the snow is falling heavily and now lying I thought I'd talk about the "dead hedge project". As mentioned in this previous blog we have an almost dead Leylandii hedge running from front to back along the western edge of the property and we want to improve the look of it without spending lots of money. Next door has a matching hedge, the tops of which are still alive, so it looks a bit odd. As I mentioned before, I came up with a cunning plant to cut off all the dead branches and snags and grow vigorous climbers up and over what was left.

Clematis alpina Columbine
As with choosing any plants for your garden, it's important to choose types and varieties that will grow well in the conditions you have. Although there are many climbers that will do the job of covering something we don't want to see, not all will survive or grow well in my bit of upland Scotland. Whether you want to cover a shed, fence, wall, garage, or unsightly half-dead hedge, you can make it look appealing all year round with a bit of careful planning. From early flowering Clematis, summer flowering Roses, Honeysuckle with fabulous scent and berries in autumn to Parthenocissus with their incredible red autumn foliage. You can use Ivies for evergreen foliage (as long as they are well-behaved ones) or evergreen Clematis if you have warm and suitable conditions.

Humulus lupulus Aureus
Lonicera growing on a fence

For where we are gardening I am going to use some tough climbers that I grew at Easter Mosshat (which was 100 feet higher than here), so I know they will do the job. I also have a lot of cuttings of them, so more free plants, which is always a good thing.

Clematis montana 'Wilsonii'

I am going to use three different types of Clematis:

C.montana 'Rubens' is very vigorous and perfect for covering large areas quickly. It can ultimately grow to between 20 and 30 feet, although it can be pruned back to fit the available space. They also look good growing up trees, so I am sure it will be quite at home growing through the hedge here. With its pink flowers in summer sprawling over the hedge it will give effect quickly whilst other slower climbers get going.

C. montana 'Wilsonii' is one of my favourites. With it's white, chocolate-scented flowers and vigorous growth it is perfect against the dark green of the conifer that is still alive. I grew it over the potting shed at Easter Mosshat, where it put on a good 6 feet a year. I will be planting it near a path so I can smell the flowers as I walk past.

C.aplina 'Willy' is very tough and recommended for exposed cold positions, I grew it on a fence at Easter Mosshat, where it got all the wind and cold going and yet did very well. After it has flowered it has lovely silky seed heads into autumn and winter.

Clematis alpina 'Willy'

Clematis seed heads

Another plant I will be using is Lonicera japonica Halliana, which I used to grow through the native hedges at Easter Mosshat. It flowers well and is beautifully scented, so plant it where you can enjoy the perfume as you walk past. It also puts on feet of growth a year so will fill its place in the hedge quickly.

There are several big, vigorous, rambling roses you can use. They will love to scramble through large trees and over long fences or through a hedge. R. filipes 'Kiftsgate', R. 'Rambling Rector' and R. 'Pauls Himalayan Musk' are great examples. I will be growing Rosa 'Park Director Rigors' and Rosa 'Betty Sherriff". The first one is a fabulous scarlet and with put on at least 6 feet of growth a year and flower for months with red hips to follow in autumn. Only grow R. 'Betty Sherriff' if you have a lot of room and by that I mean room for a plant that will put near on 20 feet a year! It is also covered in vicious thorns, so plant it where it can do its thing but won't snare passers-by. That said it is well worth growing. It covers itself in beautiful pinky white flowers in summer and the scent is lovely.

Rosa 'Betty Sherriff' growing at
Binny Plants
Flowers of Rosa 'Betty Sherriff

Rosa 'Park Director Rigors'

Humulus lupulus 'Aureas', I have always loved that name, it rolls off the tongue effortlessly. Otherwise known as the Golden Hop, it is another great climber for the garden. There are several new varieties which are shorter and the species which has green leaves and is the one used for beer. The golden variety shines in a garden: it is such a rich colour and if grown on a wall or fence at the back of a border forms a great back-drop. It does die back in winter, but comes away with new shoots and feet and feet of growth come spring, covering itself in yellow hop tassels, which are great for drying and flower arranging.

Making a start to cutting off the
 dead branches

The hedge in question

Lastly I will be planting Parthenocissus quinquefolia, again a vigorous grower, deciduous and tough. Its vine like branches will sprawl through the hedge and we can enjoy its glorious scarlet foliage in autumn.

Parthenocissus with its glorious autumn colour

All I need is some dry weather to get the rest of the hedge cut back. It doesn't have to be warm, just dry: sawing all those branches is warm work. Then I can get the climbers planted and they can scramble away to their hearts content over the summer. A year or two will see them established with plenty growth to lighten up and improve the boundary.

Other climbers I would recommend, which are tough and good growers are:

Clematis alpina 'Alba plena'

Clematis 'Paul Farges'

Ivies, varieties depending on your choice of leaf colour and rate of growth

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  1. Hello. Just wondered how your hedge project faired? We also have a dead leylandii hedge ( burnt by neighbours bonfire) and although we have been advised to dig them all up I d like to try using them as a scaffold for some climbers. So your experience would b good to know. ThAnks


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