Supports for climbers
Check on trellis, pergolas, arches and all other structures supporting climbers, and carry out any repairs that are needed. If necessary, untie the plants and remove them from their supports – a task which is much easier to do while the plants are dormant.
Renewing plant ties
Before plants start growing actively, check on the ties that secure them to their supports. Replace any ties which have rotted and add extra ties if these are required – a large climber in full leaf can be very heavy.
Ties and tying
It is important to tie climbing plants correctly to supports using the right materials, as otherwise they may be severely damaged by constriction or wind. Use ties made from non-preservative-treated twine, or any product that will stretch, or rot within a year. Do not use ties made from wire, plastic string or bailer twine, as these will chafe and damage the plant as it rocks in the wind. The figure-of-eight is one of the best knots to secure climbers and wall shrubs to canes, wires or trellis. To stop the tie and plant slipping sideways, pass the twine twice around the cane, wire or bar of the trellis, then cross it over, passing it around the front of the plant. Secure it with a reef knot.
If you have climbers, such as Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), ivy (Hedera) and climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris), growing in the house cut them back by at least 45 cm (18 in) from all windows and door frames. Then the plants can regrow without obscuring these.
If the weather permits, take hardwood cuttings of hardy climbers now to save time in the spring.
A few ornamental wall shrubs, pyracantha and the Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) are good examples, respond best to being trained in a fan. This ensures that the branches are well spaced out and get an even amount of light and air. The shape of a fan is established during the first few years of the plant’s life. Select the branches to form the fan and tie them on to the canes. Prune out any unwanted shoots flush with the stem.
Stretch horizontal wires along a wall at 30 cm (12 in) intervals. Tie bamboo canes to the wires in the desired fan shape, then tie suitable branches to the canes. The tips of the branches should be about 30-45 cm (12-18 in) apart.