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WORDS: ANNE SCHAUFFER IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK

There are numerous reasons to employ climbers or creepers, but whether you want to soften a harsh surface, create a pretty scented arch through which to walk, or design a pattern for a wall, put in some homework to prevent heartache.

“You’d be well advised to understand the plant and its needs,” says Carol Reid of Garden Green. “Ideally talk to your local nursery or garden guru about your specific area and what grows best there. Try to recreate its ideal environment.”

Shade-loving climbers are somewhat limited in our sun-drenched country, but there are a handful which work well. “The word shade isn’t quite specific enough though,” says Reid, “because some creepers will grow in light or partial shade – so, they’re shade tolerant rather than loving – but prefer partial sun. Few are happy in dense shade, so if you’re keen to plant a creeper there, try to cut back trees or whatever is blocking the light, and you’re far more likely to have a healthy plant.”

These are a few creepers and climbers which Reid suggests:

Jasmine

There are a number of different jasmine creepers, all scented and pretty, but some aren’t frost hardy, others prefer more sun. Star jasmine ( jasminum multipartitum) and South African jasmine ( jasminum angulare) flower intermittently throughout the year. Confederate jasmine or star jasmine (trachelospermum jasminoides), with its beautiful dark green leaves and scented white flowers, is now available in a variegated, more low-growing variety. Reid favours jasminum angulare (wild jasmine), a hardy, evergreen, drought resistant climber with glossy, dark leaves – it does best in frost-free regions, and it’s happy in light shade. This is quite a delicate climber, happy to climb over arches and along fences and walls. It performs best in fertile, loamy, well-composted soil, and performs better with a little watering during spring and summer.

Tickey creeper/ficus/fig creeper/kruipvy or ficus pimula

This perennial, evergreen creeper climbs about 9m to 12m vertically, and 30m2 to 40m2 horizontally. It attaches itself to the wall or any porous surface, so bear that in mind… it’s a tenacious sucker, and if you choose to remove it, you’ll have your work cut out for you removing the vestiges of this creeper. It produces heart-shaped leaves of varying colours, and it’s dense enough to completely conceal an ugly surface. It can take a little time to get going, but once it does, it grows fast.

Thunbergia alata (black-eyed Susan)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The orange flowers occur all year and attract insect eating birds. It’s ideal for small gardens – it grows well on a trellis to act as a screen.

Cyphostemma lanigerum (wildedruif)

This deciduous shrub/scrambler grows to 2m tall. As it is deciduous, it’s frost resistant. It’s also drought resistant and grows in the semi-shade. The yellow flowers open in spring and the bright orange/red berries attract birds. It occurs naturally on the Highveld and is a worthwhile addition to a bird garden. It can be grown over rocks as a creeper.

Clematis

There are numerous different forms of clematis, but our deciduous South African clematis bractiata will grow in light shade, and can reach a height of 5m if left unchecked. It can, however, easily be trained into a more formal growth on a trellis, and bears masses of dainty, scented, creamy white flowers during late summer and autumn. The flowers are followed by large, decorative seed heads. It’s commonly known as traveller’s friend.

WALL ART

There’s no limit to the designs you can create, by either affixing 2D metal shapes like different sized rounds, or single strands, slightly proud of your wall. The more attention you’re prepared to pay the creeper, the more intricate the design you can achieve. The traditional criss-cross trellis shape – large or small – is easy to fit to the wall, and with not too much attention, creepers like jasmine follow the line. Just twist them round the wire every now and again to keep them neat. Evenly or unevenly spaced vertical lines – also work well, and if you play with colour, texture or patterns on the wall behind, interesting effects can result. If you enjoy a formal look, oversized pots in a row against a wall, can each contain their own creeper – affix a rectangular/round metal or wooden trellis, so you create a panelled effect.

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