How to Grow Climbers and Wall Shrubs in Small Garden

Just because an area is often heavily shaded does not mean that the choice of plants is very small. There is a wide range of plants that will grow quite happily in the shade, in fact there are so many it is difficult to choose just a few to fit in to a small garden. A backyard has the added advantage of being sheltered, so slightly tender plants can be grown that would not survive in a more open situation. There are no hard and fast rules about what plants will grow in a certain spot but the following categories can be used as guidelines.


Climbers are the plants to start with. If you choose these first the other plants can be selected to fit in with them. Some will climb quite happily up a wall or fence without any help but others will need some support.

Wall Shrubs  Small Garden


Ivies will provide a good cover once established and they only need support in the early stages. Hedera cokhica ‘Dentata’ is a large-leaved ivy with dark green leaves and ‘Variegata’ has cream markings. Hedera canariensis ‘Gloire de Marengo’ is another popular large-leaved variety; it is not so hardy as H.c. ‘Dentata’ but should grow quite happily in the shelter of a backyard. The smaller leaved ivy, Hedera helix, is also attractive and good varieties include ‘Glacier’ with silver-grey variegated leaves; ‘Goldheart’, green with a gold centre and ‘Buttercup’ with golden young foliage. Bear in mind that the colour will not be so good if the plants are grown in heavy shade. Garrya elliptica is a vigorous evergreen shrub that grows well against a wall and makes an ideal screening plant. It has thick, leathery leaves and long drooping grey-green catkins on male plants. The catkins on female plants are smaller and less attractive.

If you want to cover an eyesore quickly you will not do better than Polygonum baldschuanicum, the Russian vine. It is essential it is grown on its own rather than in a border because it will rapidly smother other plants.


Hydrangea petiolaris is an excellent choice. It is self-clinging and the flat white flower heads produce a lovely display in early summer. For colourful foliage there is parthenocissus (Virginia creeper) and the best variety is Parthenocissus henryana (Chinese Virginia creeper) which is not so vigorous as the others and clings to a wall without support.

For winter colour Jasminum nudijlorum will brighten up dark days with its bright yellow flowers and chaenomeles (flowering quince) will provide flowers in spring followed by yellow-green fruits which can be used for making jelly. There are many different forms of Chaenomeles speciosa with flower colours ranging from deep crimson to white. Chaenomeles japonica is a smaller variety with orange-red flowers.

The pyracantha is tough and easy to grow, if you don’t mind the prickles. As well as the common red-berried variety there is Pyracantha atalantioides ‘Aurea’ with bright yellow fruits that have the advantage of not being popular with the birds. Honeysuckle will grow well in partial shade and the evergreen or semi-evergreen Lonicera japonica is a useful cover-up plant. ‘Aureoreticulata’ has lovely bright green leaves with golden ‘netting’ and white fragrant flowers. ‘Halliana’ has white flowers changing to yellow.

The deciduous Lonicera periclymenum flowers in late summer with yellow blooms flushed purple. ‘Serotina’ is the late Dutch honeysuckle, flowering through to the autumn.

A lot of roses need to be grown in full sun but there are also many climbers which will stand partial shade and still produce plenty of blooms. They flower over a long period if dead-headed regularly and make good covering plants for trellis and pergolas.

‘Danse du Feu’ is a modern climber with double orange flowers which last well into the autumn and ‘Golden Showers’ is a double yellow with masses of scented blooms. ‘Zephirine Drouhin’, an old favourite with its thorn-free stems and pink, semi-double flowers, provides a welcome second flush in autumn. Particularly good for a shady spot is the old-fashioned ‘Mme Gregoire Staechelin’ with sweetly perfumed double pink flowers—the only disadvantage is that they are not so long lasting as the other varieties. ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’ (pinky white) is another lovely old variety that’s ideal for a north-facing wall.


The choice of climbers and wall shrubs increases if you have a sunny wall to grow them on. Both ceanothus and wisteria have attractive blue flowers and both will need to be trained as they are not self-clinging. Ceanothus produces its flowers from summer to early autumn and ‘Gloire de Versailles’ is one of the best varieties. If you buy a wisteria make sure it is a grafted one because plants grown from seed will often take years to flower. Wisteria sinensis is the most widely grown and it has large mauve-blue flowers in late spring.

Actinidia is a deciduous climber and one variety, Actinidia chinensis, is the Chinese gooseberry or Kiwi fruit that is so popular now. It is often thought of as a greenhouse plant but it will grow quite happily outside and will thrive on a sheltered, sunny or partly-shaded wall. To produce fruits both male and female plants are needed so buy sexed plants from a reputable grower. The other variety, Actinidia kolomikta, has most attractive heart-shaped leaves with pink and white tips and it has small white flowers in early summer.

Of course I can’t forget the clematis. These contain such a wide range of flowers—large and small, mauve, white, yellow and pink, with various markings. There is even an evergreen form, Clematis armandii, with white flowers, although it is not very widely available. Of the large flowered hybrids ‘Nelly Moser’ (pink with crimson stripes) and ‘Jackmanii Superba’ (dark purple) are probably the best known. ‘Lasurstern’ (lavender blue), ‘Ernest Markham’ (red) and ‘The President’ (purple with paler stripes) are also a good choice.

Clematis montana is a particularly vigorous small-flowered variety and is very easy to grow. It has white flowers but C. montana rubens with pink flowers is also widely available. Clematis tangutica is a pretty yellow and the flowers are followed by attractive silky seed heads. Although clematis like the sun their roots should be in the shade, so plant low-growing shrubs or perennials around the base.

A much wider selection of roses can be grown in a sunny position and you can choose between the modern and the old-fashioned climbers and ramblers. The modern ones flower over a longer period and tend to be more disease resistant. They include the well-known ‘Ena Harkness’ with scented red flowers; ‘Iceberg’, a pure white; ‘Queen Elizabeth’, pink; and ‘Pink Perpetue’, a fairly vigorous variety with a good perfume.

Wall Shrubs  Small Garden

I find that the old-fashioned roses have more appeal and am particularly fond of ‘Albertine’ a vigorous rambler with masses of double pink scented blooms. ‘Alberic Barbier’ is also attractive with yellow buds opening to white and ‘Mermaid’ is a good candidate for a south or a north wall. It’s a vigorous, almost evergreen climber with large bright yellow blooms.

In a very sheltered spot Eccremocarpus scaber (the Chilean glory flower) will scramble up walls and trellis. It is evergreen and has tubular orange flowers from summer to early autumn.

Another tender climber is Passijlora caerulea, the passion flower. It will survive in a very sheltered place and is ideal for growing under a canopy or conservatory. The fascinating white and purple flowers are produced in late summer and are sometimes followed by oval, yellow fruits.

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About the Author: Greenery always attracts Arthur Kunkle. He has a big garden where he plants many fruits and vegetables. His passion for gardening motivates him to write and share different tips on gardening.

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