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Last updated on January 21st, 2020
If you have climbing plants in your garden you know that they are a charming addition with whimsical cascades of beautiful flowers and rich foliage, but behind that are strong vines typically so strong that they can tear down the flimsiest of structures if not properly supported.
To that end you need to know how to support climbers and how to train climbers concurrently. The support structure needs to be put into place first after what you can train them properly.
What to use to support climbers
If you have climbing plants, chances are it is something like clematis, hydrangeas, Honeysuckle or Wisteria, something that is very strong and will make its way up any structure you have. To that end strong and heavy plants require sturdy structures to support them so that they are able to reach maturity. Once you have a strong structure in place you can watch your plant grow naturally and wrap its tiny tendrils around each area or you can train it so that it climbs in a direction that you specify.
There are plenty of options you can use in terms of materials to support your climbers. The framework should be something strong. You can purchase pre-made trellises or you can build them yourself. You can also train your plants to go up an existing arbour or fence if you have it. If you don’t have a structure already in place you may need to build one.
Even if you have an existing, store-bought structure or you build one yourself, you need to be cognizant of the specific type of climber you have. For example, clematis while beautiful needs a lot of areas around which it can wrap its tendrils in which case you might need to expound upon existing trellises or fences by adding wire closer together or garden netting as pictured below, this can be easily attached to fence or trellis using a heavy duty staple gun and staples than you hammer in.
If you have a brick or stone wall, you can either use wires going horizontally and use screws eyes to screw into the wall and then wrap the wires around the holes to secure tightly in places. Failing that you can screw trellis work to the wall.
Building a structure yourself
If you are going to build a wire structure, particularly a trellis, for your climber you want to dig two separate post holes first and foremost and have them spaced to the width you need to cover.
- The size of the area you want filled by your climber such as one end of your garden patio to the other or
- the size the plant is expected to reach in terms of spread once it gains full maturity.
- Dig two post holes into which to place the main supporting framework.
- Line the holes with approximately 6cm of crushed rock. It might be in your best interest to use a digging bar to pack the rocks in deeply. You want to add the crusted rock to line the area around the post hole and help drain away excess water from the post themselves.
- Once you are done put in the posts that you have decided to use and make sure everything is level. Typically you would get a post that is 10 cm by 10cm and 2 meters tall for a larger space but if you are planning to use your climber to create half walls for privacy or to add layers to your garden so you can obviously end this as necessary.
- If you want the structure to remain stable and in place permanently you can fill in the remaining area with a wet concrete mix. If not you can add gravel and a mixture of other soil to keep it compact.
From there take a tool and begin marking the 30cm intervals between one post and the next so that you can add additional wooden dowels or support structures all the way down and at 15 cm increments all the way up. The materials you use for those 15cm increments from top to bottom can be thin wooden dowels or thick metal wire. The stronger your climber, the stronger and sturdier the material you will want.
- If you are using wooden dowels or boards to span from one end to the other you will want to drill holes so that you can a fix each board to either end of your posts and repeat the pattern all the way across. That said when you are making it yourself you have a lot of leeway in terms of the pattern you use. Some people like to build trellises that span from one end to the other with horizontal and vertical sections all the way across whereas other people prefer the quintessential diagonal design. Regardless of the design you choose, secure all of the materials in place from one end to the other and as they overlap one another.
- For those climbers that need more structure up which to climb you can, of course, fill in any regions in between each of the main pieces of framework or trellis with the wire that is thinner and able to support the tendrils rather than the vines.
Again the point of having such a structure is so that you have spaces against which the strong vines and stems can grow and a fix as well as smaller, thinner wire against which the tendrils can wrap.
How to train climbers
When you are ready it’s time to train the climbers you have. This is something you will have to do regularly as the plant is gaining maturity but once it establishes itself and has a fixed itself to the structure you’ve selected you won’t have to do as much maintenance except for general pruning, usually to keep it within the framework and promote flowering.
Figure out the direction you want the plant to grow. Once you have done that use ties to keep the vines tied to the cables or the wires that you have selected or directly to the trellis as they are maturing. It is best for you to use soft twine for this so that you can tie it in such a fashion that it doesn’t constrict the plant growth but once the plant matures you can cut it off easily. If you do use a garden steel wire just make sure it’s not to tight.
If you want to encourage specific growth in one direction or another you can use this twine to temporarily keep the plant growing along the specific lines of your trellis that you want and it will naturally curl around that area and thicken. You can choose special clips to pin the vines to the different posts or wires but it is better to use softer twine simply because the clips, if neglected, can choke the vine growth end result in open cuts that leave your plants susceptible to diseases or pests. If you are diligent about your gardening effort you can always remove them once they reach a certain thickness but that can be time-consuming.