There’s a big choice of climbing plants to choose from and many of them have been bred to make them hardy for our climate. It is worth saying that the advice of a local garden centre would be invaluable if you are in a very northerly or exposed part of the United Kingdom. A plant that’s hardy for a sheltered garden in the south might not make it in other regions.
Climbing Plants and Trellis
Some plants will damage a fence, there’s no two ways about it, but as long as you avoid ivy and its variations, anything described as a ‘climber’ should be alright. If you are concerned, put trellis against the fence and train the plants up that instead.
Most vines climb by wrapping tendrils around the thin spares of a trellis and so might have trouble climbing on a panelled fence. If you want the plants to cover the fence quickly, trellis would speed up the coverage.
There should be comprehensive information on seed packets as to the speed of growth and whether the particular variety you’re looking at will climb and spread, or if it is more bush-like. If you are thinking of buying young plants rather than growing from seed you should be able to get that information from the supplier.
Clematis and Hop
There’s a tremendous variety of Clematis which are very popular as a climbing plant and often used for camouflage. You should get good coverage in the first year and then the whole fence should be covered in the second year.
If you’re after a really fast growing climber then consider Morning Glory. Again there’s a huge variety, all sorts of colours, but most have the distinct trumpet-shaped flowers. They’ll flower throughout the summer but you will need to be careful to make sure you get a climber variety rather than a Morning Glory bred for hanging basket use. You should have most of the fence covered in six to eight weeks.
A Few Offbeat Suggestions
For a climber that offers that something a little different you could try a hop, particularly if you like to brew your own beer as a few toasted hops will add an authentic note. Although it will need to be cut back to the ground in the winter it will come back again strongly each year. Perhaps a hop is not the right choice if you’re looking for year-round camouflage though.
Or you could try a chocolate vine. This is an eye-catching climber with deep mauve blooms in the early summer which give off a chocolate perfume. It will occasionally produce large mauve fruit in a good summer that are distinctly sausage-like.
Take a Look Around
Other climbers worth considering might be honeysuckle, Virginia creeper or jasmine, but if you want a fast climber, avoid Wisteria. Have a look round a garden centre or in a plant catalogue and see what takes your fancy.