The perfect climber is a tall order: "I'd like something that smells lovely, looks pretty, is thick and privacy-enhancing all year round, and – key – is idiot-proof," writes Kate, a reader.
There's nothing like the vaguest hint of bikini weather to get us all thinking about garden privacy. But it's not just sun worshippers who need a bit of private space – maybe you just want to be able to sit outside without having to chat to your neighbours. Climbers are a key tool for the gardener in search of privacy – but it's nice if they can be pretty and smell good too.
For floral glory, combining a rose and a clematis gives colour throughout the long flowering season. Kate would do well to try a climbing rose such as "Gertrude Jekyll", a gorgeous pink, grown with "Clematis Madame Julia Correvon", which flowers from July to November, with stunning deep ruby flowers. On the downside, though, "Madame" is a viticella hybrid, which means you have to be brave and cut the whole thing back to two-foot high in the dead of winter, leaving a pair of buds. And neither will be completely evergreen, losing most of their leaves over the winter.
Another tactic would be to tick the evergreen box by planting a good ivy, which you would have to vow to keep in check with constant pruning. There is no substitute for the thick cover you get from ivy, and while some prefer unusual species such as "Persian Ivy", I think our plain old English Hedera helix is gorgeous. Then pick a rampant annual such as morning glory to grow into it: Ipomea tricolor "Heavenly Blue" goes through a spectrum of blues in the course of a single day.
But could I find all of what Kate wants in a single plant? Clematis armandii looked a good bet, with vanilla perfume, glossy evergreen leaves and pure white flowers. But it flowers in April, or even earlier – so Kate will have no flowers over the UK's main bikini-wearing months.
I suspect that the one plant which might answer all her requirements is "Star Jasmine". It isn't a real jasmine: it's more closely related to frangipani and oleander. With rich, dark-green leaves, it flowers for most of the summer, producing a fragrance that will sit in the evening air.
Whichever climbers you choose, remember that the biggest key to getting bushy growth for privacy is food and water. Every plant can be idiot-proof if you give it some Miracle-Gro once a week and a good watering. n
Flower fortress: four dignity preservers
The sweetest, prettiest, deep-pink cupped roses, with a proper old-fashioned perfume. £10.95, www.davidaustinroses.com
Clematis armandii 'Snowdrift'
Covered in white stars in spring, with green centres. A strong grower. £20, www.sheilachapman.com
Trachelospermum jasminoides 'Star Jasmine'
Won't grow as fast as some, but the stunning fragrance will eventually be worth it. Tender, so best-suited to town-dwellers. £12.95, www.crocus.co.uk
Holboellia latifolia Multiple
A vigorous evergreen, with highly scented, delicate, bell-like flowers. Best grown away from freezing winds. £15, www.mailorder.crug-farm.co.uk
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