There are a number of reasons why, when choosing a climbing plant, you might wish to choose a plant that will not drop its leaves in winter. Evergreen climbing plants for UK gardens can help wildlife by providing shelter all winter long. They can also enhance the winter garden by providing year-round visual appeal, and when planted against a wall of your home, some may even provide some level of insulation agains the winter weather.
When choosing evergreen climbing plants, there are a number of different things to consider. It is important to think about:
- Which way the wall or fence is facing, how much sun or shade there is, and whether the site is sheltered or exposed.
- Whether you want to opt for a self-clinging plant, or one which will need wires or a trellis for support. (Bear in mind that self-clinging plants may be easier – but could damage certain structures. They may, for example, crumble the mortar in an old stone wall and if they reach high enough, may disturb roof tiles as they seek out any holes or weaknesses.)
- Whether you want an option that will grow quickly and vigorously, or a slower growing variety.
Evergreen climbers can be planted at any time of the year, providing water is available. It is best, therefore, to avoid periods of drought in midsummer, and periods when the ground is frozen solid during the winter months. Be sure to plant your climbers at a little distance from the wall, outside of the ‘rain shadow’.
Ivy (Hedera helix)
Ivy is the most versatile and adaptable evergreen climber for the UK. It is a self-clinging plant family, with a wide range of varietals, many of which are ideal for shady spots, north facing walls and other problematic areas. There are plenty of different ivies that you could consider. One attractive option is the variegated ‘Glacier’, which has silvery green foliage with white edges that sometimes develop pink tints in winter. You could also consider ‘Goldchild’, with its golden fringed leaves, ‘Goldheart’ with its golden centred leaves, or large-leafed ‘Green Ripple’, whose foliage takes on a purple tinge in winter. Another interesting option is ‘Gloire de Marengo’, which has beautiful two-toned leaves that develop a red tinge in the autumn.
One of the few Clematis that are evergreen, Clematis armandii is a vigorous climber with long, leathery, shiny spear-shaped leaves that stay on all winter. While this evergreen is rather nondescript over the winter months, it comes into its own in the early spring, with a breathtaking show of sweet-smelling white flowers. It is a good choice for a south facing or west-facing and sheltered spot.
Passionflowers are best known for their striking and impressive purple or white blooms during the summer. These are followed by yellow plum-shaped fruits which are great for garden birdlife. But these climbers also generally keep their dense foliage all year round. Vigorous and quite fast growing, these plants can make a good evergreen screen. They can do well against a south or west facing wall or fence. They will thrive full sun or partial shade but will require protection from winter winds. In cooler parts of the UK, may do better if grown in containers and brought under cover during the winter months.
Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum Jasminoides)
Star jasmines are stunning evergreen climbing plants that bloom in late spring or early summer. They then carry on blooming through the summer months. They will keep their foliage all winter, and are great planted near a door, window or seating area. That means you can enjoy the fragrance of the flowers later in the year. The glossy leaves often turn a deep red in winter. While it can thrive in a sunny and sheltered spot, in full sun or partial shade, it will need protection from strong winds and may do better under cover in colder parts of the UK.
The above are the most common evergreen climbing plants for UK gardens. However, there are other options if you wish to cover up an unsightly wall or fence. In addition to considering the climbing plants mentioned above, you could also consider growing evergreen wall shrubs up against the structure. For example, you could consider:
And a range of other evergreen or semi-evergreen shrubs.
Do you have evergreen climbing plants in your garden? Share your favourite varieties and tips for their cultivation in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.