If you want to add visual depth to your garden, think up. Climbing vines and shrubs, that is. These climbers expand your garden in an entirely new direction, and the added height gives your space a cozy feel by creating privacy. As an added bonus, all of these plants bloom at least once a year, so you’ll be treated to a wall of color all season long.
Clematis (Zones 4-9)
Clematis is a versatile, fast-growing vine that comes in all colors and blooming seasons. While flower size and color will depend on the variety you plant, what all clematis boast is their explosive height. They can skim the clouds at 30 feet in just a few months, and in addition to growing tall, they also grow wide to provide optimal coverage. All varieties of clematis thrive in sunny locations that tend to have cool soil. If you're worried that your sun-exposed spot might get too hot, apply mulch around the plant to ensure that the soil remains cool. Since clematis shoots up so quickly, be sure to provide support for the vine to climb, whether it’s a fence, trellis, poles, etc. Clematis grows well both in the ground and in containers if you wish to limit the growth. Water often while the vine is establishing itself. Then water an inch a week, and give it an extra good drink during times of drought. Prune following the blooming period to ensure that the vine always looks its best.
Climbing Roses (Zones 5-10)
Climbing roses can be trained to grow over fences, trellises, or walls, and they often add a traditional touch to the garden. These roses send up a long structural cane — it’s on the main shoots that the smaller ones grow. When planting, be sure to install your supports first and then plant the rose. You’ll want to support rose canes adequately, and while it may seem counterintuitive if you're planting a privacy barrier, it's a good idea to train the long cane to grow in a horizontal position. The main cane will produce more flowers when horizontal, all of which will bloom and spread out to create a great deal of cover. Ideally, you’ll want to continue to tie your rose canes as they grow, though for at least the first year or two try letting them grow freely, as it will help them bush out. Water well while the plant is becoming established, and prune it annually to help it maintain your desired shape.
Climbing Hydrangeas (Zones 4-7)
Climbing hydrangeas are the summer favorite that can grow up to 50 feet tall. Although it takes a few years to establish itself,you had better watch out for accelerated growth when it does. These vines will climb anything: trellises, fences, and even trees. Before long, the area will be covered with massive green leaves and flowers. This hydrangea will bloom from early summer to mid-autumn. While the plant provides ample privacy in the summer, it’ll eventually shed its foliage and remain sparse until the following spring. Hydrangeas are versatile, and so long as you plant them in soil that's super rich, you can grow them in full sun or partial shade.
Wisteria (Zones 5-9)
Wisteria is a hardy climber that quickly creates screening when planted near a trellis or fence and provides visual interest when trained to climb a wall. Wisteria can grow up to 30 feet tall and is known for the fragrant lilac and blue-tinged flowers that cascade from the vine. These aggressive vines have a habit of growing to fill all of the nooks and crannies they can reach, so you'll want to try to keep some distance between them and your house. Additionally, be aware that both Chinese and Japanese wisterias are considered invasive in some states. Alternatively, you might consider growing American or Kentucky wisteria instead. Not sure of the difference? Just look at the seed pod — the Asian varieties will be fuzzy whereas the North American varieties are smooth. Plant them in full sun and compost-amended soil.
Trumpet Vine (Zones 4-9)
Trumpet vine grows easily in pretty much any condition: sun, shade, blazing heat, and cold. It’s bright red and orange flowers attract hummingbirds and other wildlife to your landscape. It grows quickly, both in height and width. While this is ideal if you’re interested in creating privacy screening, keep in mind that this plant can get invasive if not kept under control. How fast can it grow? It’s not unheard of to reach anywhere between 30 to 40 feet in one season alone! Prune it often (don’t worry, it can handle it). Trumpet vine is ideal for fences and trellises, but like wisteria, you'll want to keep it away from your home, as the vine's aggressive growth may cause damage to your shingles or foundation. One way to avoid some of the drawbacks of planting a barrier of trumpet vines is to steer clear of the Campis radicans variety that's native to the United States and instead try the Campis grandiflora, or Chinese trumpet vine. It's still a fast grower that you'll need to control with pruning, but planting these on a column out of reach from other plants pretty much guarantees you a nice privacy barrier without the worry that the vines will start to strangle trees and other existing plants.
Star Jasmine (Zones 8-10)
Star jasmine is easily identified by its small, fragrant star-shaped flowers that grow quickly over walls, trellises, and fences. Although it can grow up to 30 feet tall, it still needs support. Otherwise, it’ll flop over. If you're searching for a good groundcover though, a flopped-over star jasmine can do the trick. Easily adaptable to many temperatures and climates, it can take full sun in moderation. If you plan to plant it in a warmer zone, be sure to provide some protection from the glaring sun during the hottest parts of the day. Water it regularly, especially while it's still getting established. The hotter the temperatures outside, the more water it’ll need. Prune it after flowering to ensure that it maintains the shape you prefer.
Hops (Zones 3-9)
Hops are hardy vines to add to any garden, especially if you’re a home brewer or know someone who is. This vine climbs a staggering foot a day and will grow up to 25 feet in total. Even if you’re not into brewing, hop vines are an interesting ornamental to add to the garden. Be sure to support them by training them to climb twine, wire, or cable, or at least train them over a trellis. Rhizomes, the subterranean stems of your hops plants that will produce their root systems, should be planted in early spring and watered well until they become established. Harvest the cones from August through September, when they've become green and fragrant.