GARDENING | Consider scaling the heights for practicality and design

GOING UP: Climbing plants can bring so much to a garden.
GOING UP: Climbing plants can bring so much to a garden.

One way of utilising the vertical space in a garden is to grow climbing plants.

Climbing plants are plants that have elongated stems and require some form of support in order to grow vertically.

In nature climbers use trees, shrubs and rock faces to grow towards the light.

Some climbers known as lianas can grow to heights of 50 metres in forests in search of light so they can flower and fruit ... probably not the type of plant for the average backyard.

Ornamental climbers are a little more obedient.

Climbers for the home garden can be evergreen or deciduous but have one thing in common - they will need some form of structure to hold the weight of the plant and display the flowers and foliage to best effect.

The type of structure depends on the climbing method the plant uses in attaching itself to the support.

Root climbers such as English ivy produce aerial roots which attach themselves firmly to surfaces such as walls and fences.

The downside of these plants is that the roots can damage the surface they climb.

Twining climbers coil their stems around the support; kiwi fruit, wisteria, false sarsaparilla, jasmine and wonga wonga vine are fantastic climbers that will twine across fences, trellis or pergolas.

Tendril climbers are ideal to grow over some wire frames and fences and there are a multitude of useful tendril climbers for any garden including passionfruit, sweet peas and grapes.

Scramblers are plants that have backward-pointing hooks or prickles that will hook over any form of support and include bougainvillea and climbing roses.

Almost any structure can be used to support a climber or be covered by a climber.

The type of support depends on the use or purpose the climber will serve, but whatever type of support is chosen it should have enough strength to support the weight of the mature plant.

Choose materials that will not rot and collapse in a few years such as treated timber or plastic-coated metal mesh or frames.

Many climbers use trees for support in their natural habitat, however it is not recommended to use a living tree to support a climber as they can cause physical damage to the tree.