Clematis vines like to climb, so aim high.
Our back garden is surrounded by a 6-foot fence. For years, I’ve tried to train clematis to grow up the fence with some success. Keep in mind that clematis will grow up, not horizontally. You can tease out the vines as they grow, encouraging some to spread laterally, but they will always grow vertically if left on their own.
By training the vines early in the season, I get a nice display on sections of the fence. However, I find that the vines reach the top of the fence and then tumble when they can grow no higher. If they could, they would. Indeed, I have a client who has 12-foot trellis panels and the vines always reach the top — even if they get sheared to the ground by rabbits during the winter. One guy in my neigborhood has rigged up a 15-foot trellis using two long boards to form a triangle that holds string for climbing. His design resembles a support for a suspension bridge, and when in bloom, it’s a showstopper.
I’ve been looking for a way to create tall trellises in my backyard, and I think I’ve found a solution in one of our newest products: Garden Grids. These 19″ x 39″ panels are made of polyethylene-coated steel, and the openings are 5″ — perfect for clematis. What’s more, you can join the grids with these nifty coil connectors. I used the grids to create a T-shaped support for my Betty Corning clematis, a vigorous, long-blooming variety that has nodding, bell-shaped flowers. I started by mounting two panels onto two hardwood stakes. Then, I attached the stakes to the fence. To make it wider at the top, I used the coil connectors to add a panel on each side, making the whole thing about 11 feet tall and 4.75 feet wide.
I’m eager to see how it works. And I’m thinking up new ways to use these versatile panels.