Five fabulous early climbers

Ursula from Easton Walled Gardens picks five of the best climbers that flower early in the season.

Flowering climbers are important here, especially those that flower as the main bulb display fades. Theoretically there is lots of choice but I have difficult growing conditions which rule out some of my wishlist. Alkaline soil in shade under a north wall in a frost pocket is one particularly challenging combination. Here are 5 early flowering climbers that work for us:

1. Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’: Although not awarded an RHS AGM plant medal until 1993 it was the writings of Gertrude Jekyll that alerted me to the possibilities of this fully hardy, beautiful shrub. She recommended growing it as a climber on a north wall. So I did. Not only has it flowered brilliantly there, it seems far less prone to attack by Viburnum beetle than those in full sun.

Constance Spry

2. Also perfectly content on a North or East Wall is the beautiful Rosa ‘Constance Spry’. Blowsy, scented pink blooms are in perfect proportion to the plant flower in May or June depending on the weather. Many of the finest David Austin Roses include her in their bloodlines. Grown as a climber she will make 15’ and stretch out across a wall, but being a rose can be controlled to accommodate a smaller space. She will only flower once so consider growing a clematis through her thick thorny stems.

Wisteria 'Burford'

3. Wisteria ‘Burford’ : A climber of great quality. Grown on a south wall in our cold area, the buds are protected. They can be grown in partial shade in sheltered areas of the country. The flowers stretch down to a metre in length making this climber one of the wonders of spring.

Lonicera x tellmanniana

4. Lonicera x tellmanniana : flourishes on acid sandy ground or alkaline soil. Twining growth makes it ideal for wooden structures such as pergolas or trellis. The bees are particularly fond of its early nectar which they take by making a small hole at the narrow end of the tubular flowers. We grow it with its roots in shade under a dogwood and it sprawls out onto the nearby fence.

5. Pear blossom: Perfect for a small wall, the simple beauty of Pyrus communis is often forgotten as its fruit is the main attraction. Pear trees more than earn their place here when the trained branches are covered with snowy white blossom. Choose your young plant from a local grower to be sure it is suited to your environment.


Easton Walled Gardens is open four days a week until November 2012.

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One Response

  1. Kathy Sturr thevioletfern

    I love climbers. They add that extra layer to a garden to make it great. Intriguing about the Viburnum – that is something I will have to try. Have to love my native coral honeysuckle lonicera sempervirens – it is already blooming here – in zone 4!


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