Clumber Gardener: Climbers provide the scent of the summer

Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park
Chris Margrave, head gardener at Clumber Park

Strawberries and cream, Morecambe and Wise, climbers and scent – perfect partnerships.

Climbers produce their flowers at head height, and if they are scented, conveniently at nose height too, making it all the easier to appreciate their perfumes.

Amongst the perennial climbers, climbing and rambling roses offer one of the biggest choices – of colours, flower forms, and scents, from the heady and musky, almost intoxicating, to the lighter citrus notes.

The best varieties are disease free, repeat flowering and make excellent cut flowers.

Their ultimate height varies according to variety.

Amongst the tallest are Kiftsgate, Wedding Day and Rambling Rector, all powerfully scented whites and good for training up a tree, as they can grow to more than seven metres tall.

I have carefully trained the latter on a north facing wall no more than three metres high, fastening its shoots to wires running on the horizontal.

Their semi-double, creamy white flowers have a gorgeous perfume and produce a magnificent display in July.

Rambling Rector isn’t repeat flowering, but its hips are attractive and provide autumn interest.

Another shade-tolerant rambler is Veilchenblau.

This is much smaller in stature, reaching around four metres.

We grow it in our blue border on a northerly facing wall in Clumber’s Walled Kitchen Garden.

It receives sun only from mid-afternoon, but appears well suited, producing its distinctive semi-double lilac-blue flowers in July.

Alongside it we grow blue flowered hardy geraniums and salvias, anchusas and the blue wild indigo, Baptisia australis.

The majority of climbers and ramblers prefer a sunny spot, either against a wall or fence or trained up a pergola.

Albertine and New Dawn are two reliable ramblers, each producing pale pink flowers.

The latter probably has the edge, as it has good disease resistance and a long flowering period, all summer long, provided you remove faded blooms.

Amongst the large flowered climbers, two exceptionally fragrant varieties have stood the test of time.

Both are repeat flowering through the summer.

The thorn-less Zephirine Drouhin bears semi-double pink blooms; the flowers of Madame Alfred Carriere are white, flushed pink.

Compassion is also to be recommended – it is repeat-flowering with apricot-pink blooms.

Container-grown climbing and rambling roses can be bought and planted now.

Prepare the soil by adding well-rotted manure, leaf mould or home-made compost.

If summer weather is hot and the soil remains dry, regular watering will be needed to help the plants establish.

Climbers can be trained onto wooden trellis panels fixed to walls or along wires secured to walls or posts by vine eyes.

Ramblers tend to produce long shoots from low down on the plant; in their second year these produce side shoots which bear the flowers.

Prune back the flowered shoots in late summer and train and tie in the shoots which haven’t flowered and these will flower the following year.

The large-flowered climbers are pruned to produce a semi-permanent framework on which the flowering side shoots are produced.

These are pruned during the summer as the flowers fade.

Every three or four years some of the framework branches should be pruned back to the base to encourage replacement shoots to grow from the base of the shoot. This is best done in February or March.

It is now July and high summer and herbaceous perennials, summer bedding, containers and hanging baskets are looking good.

Visit other gardens to see new varieties and get ideas about planting schemes for your own garden.

Continue tying in the developing stems of climbers such as roses, clematis and honeysuckles.

Sweet peas are in full flower and dahlias are starting to flower.

As soon as the blooms fade, cut them off as this will encourage the plant to produce more flowers.

Similarly, remove the faded blooms from plants in containers and hanging basket and keep them well watered in hot, dry, sunny weather.

Plants will also benefit from a weekly feed with a fertiliser high in potassium, so a tomato fertiliser is ideal.

As soon as the flowers on mock orange (philadelphus) have faded, prune the flowered shoots back to a healthy, ideally outward facing bud.

This will encourage the plant to produce shoots which will bear next year’s flowers.

Continue sowing quick maturing salad crops such as loose leaf lettuce and rocket.

Chinese cabbage can be sown towards the end of the month.

To avoid plants going to seed, sow directly into the soil and thin to about 30cm spacings.