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I am looking for an evergreen climber to screen an ugly pre-cast concrete stone-effect fence. I cannot change the fence (it's concreted into retaining structures). The fence consist of 6ft upright posts with multiple panels slotted one on top of the other between them. This means that there are lots of gaps that climbers can get through (ivy does). The problem is that as their stems increase in size they will prise the gaps apart the fence. Are there any evergreen climbers that won't do this? I don't really want to have to fit training wires as I do not want to have to drill into the fence.

I'm based on the southern edge of the Cotswolds, England, so it'll be exposed to mild, wet but blustery south-westerly weather. The aspects that need covering are east and west facing, but they get a lot of sun. We get some frosts, but temps rarely drop below -5°C. Soil is free draining, over limestone.

  • Would you be willing to post some pictures of that area? I think it might help people picture what could work best in your situation. Thanks! – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL Mar 12 '17 at 22:38
  • As requested, my hardiness is between USDA zone 8 or 9 or RHS H4. Picture will have to wait - I'm not actually around during daylight during the week :( – George of all trades Mar 14 '17 at 9:28
  • Ideally, I am looking for practical experience of solutions suggested. I know of quite a range of plants - I just haven't grown them! – George of all trades Mar 14 '17 at 9:34
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There is only one self clinging climbing plant which is evergreen in the UK, and that is Hedera and its varieties. If you choose one, you will need to block off the gaps in the fence to prevent any shoots forcing their way through. It is also likely that Hedera will 'root' into the fence.

There are two other climbing plants which self cling - Hydrangea anomala and Parthenocissus, but they are not evergreen.

All other climbers will require extra support of some kind, such as trellis, clematis mesh or wires, depending on the particular plant's means of attaching itself to a support.

If there's sufficient room at ground level, you might be better off choosing an evergreen, freestanding shrub which prefers to grow against a wall or fence, and which can readily be trained/pruned against it, such as Pyracantha or Garrya elliptica.

UPDATED ANSWER:

You mention evergreen climbing hydrangea - generally, they are not reliably evergreen in the UK and are only just frost hardy, H. anomala being the only one that is totally hardy here.

Decumaria is only just frost hardy in the UK, climbs by means of aerial roots, and will need canes inserted to support those aerial roots - I've only ever seen it trained up a trellis in Cornwall.

Trachelospermum jasminoides is the one that's hardiest in the UK - the one you mention, T. asiaticum, is 'frost hardy' which really means frost tender. It is generally described as a 'self twiner' which is true, but that just means it twines. Left to its own devices, it has a tendency to just twine round itself, so if you want it to cover a large area, training it onto supports is necessary - bit of a slow starter for the first couple of years, but a lovely plant once it's got going, though in exposed situations, it can suffer in a hard winter.

Pileostegia is self clinging, hardy, reaches about 6m, prefers a fair bit of shade, but is said to be very, very slow to get going, which was certainly my experience the one time I planted it - took about 6 years for it to get a foot and a half high, so I've not bothered with it since, specially given it's not even that attractive - fairly similar to H. anomala, which gets going faster, though that plant also requires a fair bit of shade.

In regard to Hedera and its tendency to produce rootlets to stick itself to what its growing up, it will do this on concrete, even if it is new - its Parthenocissus which, whilst having a vaguely similar habit, does not damage new surfaces such as walls and pointing, but may damage older surfaces.

As for what I'd recommend to plug the gaps in your fence, I've no idea, but it seems you'll need to think of something as you're worried about tendrils going through the gaps. It's not a problem I'd have because I'd plant a freestanding, wall hugging shrub or two instead of a climber in this situation. Either that or erect a separate, more attractive fence just in front of the concrete one so you don't see it anyway, if there's no border or room for planting in front.

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  • There are other climbing Hydrangea which are supposedly evergreen: H. glandulosa, H. integrifolia, H. seemanii and H. serratifolia. However, my experience with H. anomala is that it will tend to find its way into gaps in the same that ivy does. – George of all trades Mar 14 '17 at 9:06
  • The concrete is sound so it is unlikely Hedera will root into the concrete (it is much maligned in this respect: if the wall is already unsound it will but otherwise it just sticks to the surface). – George of all trades Mar 14 '17 at 9:08
  • What would you recommend to block the gaps? I had considered this option but wasn't sure what would work. My thoughts are that it would need to be flexible as the panels can move in the wind, but it also needs to stick to concrete. – George of all trades Mar 14 '17 at 9:09
  • Decumaria sinensis, Pileostegia viburnoides and Trachelospermum asiaticum have also come up on my radar as being evergreen self-clingers, but again no experience of them. – George of all trades Mar 14 '17 at 9:31
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There are 3 I'd recommend; an evergreen would be Clematis armandii, white flowers, tough tough plant and fragrant, wow fragrant. Another would be Akebia quinata; mine in zone 5 was evergreen. Akebia quinata Yummy to walk beneath if that is possible, such as a gate. Profuse yet dainty purple flowers. The third is a perennial that will grow 25 to 35 feet every season and die back for the winter. You will be able to rip all the old/dead Golden Hops in back growing up into treevines off the wall in winter or spring and never have to do any pruning. In the spring, this plant takes off and I swear you will be able to watch it grow; 2 or 3' some days. Golden Hops...Humulus lupulus 'Aureus'...the new foliage is chartreuse, bright lime green. Later in the year leaves become dark green. Gorgeous little 'japanese lantern' flowers. Was my favorite. Choose your own variety to harvest and make beer.

Send pictures of the wall and environment and tell us your zone. Because of the concrete you might have to change the pH of the soil for the vine you choose.

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  • The concrete fence has been up over 10 years so is unlikely to have much effect on the pH, especially given that we're on limestone anyway! – George of all trades Mar 14 '17 at 9:19
  • I quite like Humulus and had wondered if something herbaceous was the way forward as without a woody framework, the scope for damaging the fence is limited. Downside is that I lose the screening in the winter. They're also tendril climbers so would need training wires or some other structure which would then be visible in the winter, making it look worse. – George of all trades Mar 14 '17 at 9:22
  • What you do is wait for spring to pull the vines down. Not as pretty but this plant definitely will screen all winter long. As for worrying about how they climb, this plant is VORACIOUS and it is mostly the young part of the vine that does its own attachments. Does NOT need any support or any wires at all, I kid you not. If you decide to take a nap near this vine you will wake up like Gulliver!! I love this vine, it is so pretty until late fall and if you leave the flowers on they are like dried miniature lanterns. This guy has very woody stems. The growth is phenomenal. – stormy Mar 14 '17 at 17:43
  • climbers.lsa.umich.edu/?p=465 Here is a good article on hops. I am kind of embarrassed that I didn't know hops is part of the Cannabis family. Lots of herbal uses but is also an irritant to some people (so don't go to sleep nearby this plant), also, it is dioecious meaning there are male plants and female plants. The flowers are what you want for beer and there are a LOT of them in early fall. I found that they are called a BINE versus VINE. No tendrils, the stems have hairs to climb! And DO NOT GO WITH HEDERA! It is on the list for top ten invasive plants! So NOT tendril vine – stormy Mar 14 '17 at 17:58
  • And amazingly this plant can deal with a fairly large range of pH as well as different soils! Likes moisture but is drought tolerant? The environment I had my hops growing in was MOIST, prone to encourage powdery mildew, but I have to tell you, the SPIDERS, primarily web spiders LOVED this vine. I never had a problem with spider mite or aphids. Never had a problem with powdery mildew either. Other plants did, such as my Akebia, but they were so healthy it was a non-issue. – stormy Mar 14 '17 at 18:16

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