Providing Support for Climbing Plants

There are many climbers and shrubs which do not possess natural means of supporting themselves and therefore some type of artificial support has to be given.

One of the commonest methods for brick walls is to use a specially stout type of non-rusting nails with strips of rubber backed pieces of canvas, strong cloth or other lasting material, such as plastic. Strong twine or tarred string can also be used in a similar way. The use of nails in the walls of dwelling houses or other buildings and walls is not altogether satisfactory and can be detrimental. Quite often during high winds, the extra weight on the branches caused by rain or heavy snowfalls will bring the supports, including the nails, from the wall. To avoid this the most satisfactory means of support is to fix stout galvanized wires horizontally to the wall, or in the case of twining climbers vertically, from 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm) apart, held in position at regular intervals by hooked or eyelet-holed metal pins, known as vine eyes, driven into the wall. Strong galvanized hooks can also be used. Both types are available in shops, garden centres and nurseries.

Another method of support is a lattice work of narrow laths, painted or creosoted, and joined together in the form of frames, and wooden trellis work is equally effective. Both types can be easily fixed to the wall and held firm with the aid of wall plugs, screws or nails.

Strips of plastic-coated steel or wire netting fixed to the walls are also effective. This is very strong, resistant to rust and can be obtained in different mesh sizes and in various lengths. Much cheaper is the ordinary strong galvanized wire netting in various mesh sizes, but it is an advantage to give it a coat of bituminous paint before fixing to reduce rusting.

There are also other strong durable synthetic, polythene types of netting now available in various mesh sizes. They are easy to handle and cut to size, and are ideal supports for plants which do not make a heavy weight, such as Lathyrus (sweet pea) and Ipomoea (morning glory), which look very effective planted near the wall. Ordinary pea sticks can also be used.

A point to be remembered when dealing with vigorous climbers is that branches should be kept well clear of any gutters or drainpipes. The annual growth can easily be disentangled and removed, but with age the main stems of wisteria, for example, can be 6 inches (5 cm) or more in diameter, and can easily force a down-pipe or gutter away from the wall if allowed to grow behind it.

Using the above-mentioned methods of support some wall plants (including fruit trees) are suitable for training into various forms, the most popular of which are fans and espaliers. The advantage of these forms is that the wall is well covered by the plant, which in turn is securely supported by wires, and this is less likely to be damaged in windy weather.


This is a suitable method of training for a shrub such as Ceanothus, and all stone fruits, such as cherries, plums and peaches. During the first year after planting the main shoot is tied in vertically as it grows and the lateral shoots are fanned out to fill the available space as evenly as possible. In subsequent years the young shoots need to be tied in regularly during the spring and summer, and the previous season’s growths should be pruned back after flowering. Annual regular pruning will maintain the shape of the mature plant.


This method of training is suitable for ornamental shrubs, such as Pyracantha, and is often used for fruit trees. To train as an espalier, cut the young plant back to three good buds, with the two lower buds pointing in opposite directions. Tie the shoot from the top bud to a vertical support, and train the shoots from the other two buds along canes fixed at an angle of about 45° to the main stem. At the end of the growing season lower the two side branches to the horizontal wires and tie them in.

Cut back the vertical leader to a bud about 18 inches (45 cm) above the lower arm, leaving two good buds to form the next horizontal arms. Cut back any surplus laterals on the main stem to three buds and prune back the lower horizontal arms by one-third, cutting to downward-facing buds. Repeat this process each year in the autumn until the shrub has filled the required space, and prune back the new terminal growths of the vertical and horizontal arms each summer, to keep the tree at its required size.







10. October 2014 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Fruit Trees | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Providing Support for Climbing Plants


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