DO you have any large shrubs or small trees in your garden? Probably a silly question but are you getting the best out of these plants?

Most woody plants in our gardens do something once a year and for the other 10 or 11 months just sit as a green blob, not giving very much back to you for all the space they occupy.

Given a little careful selection and a small amount of patience, these plants can be utilised as climbing frames for climbing plants, giving you an additional feature in the garden without having to take up any more valuable space – for many climbers, this way of growing is what they prefer anyway as it is what they do in the wild.

So, which climbers can we consider that will enhance our garden but not try and take the world over? Tropaeolum speciosum is a superb contender for climbing up that overgrown conifer at the bottom of the garden as it likes the dry soil conditions. Clematis macropetala and alpina hybrids are not so invasive that they can drown out the large shrub and give a welcome boost of flowers in April and May.

You might also consider C. viticella hybrids that will add mid-summer colour to the garden. For larger trees clematis tangutica is worth considering as are a number of excellent climbing roses – rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’ , R. ‘Alberic Barbier’, R. ‘Bobby James’, R. ‘Mermaid’ and many more besides are suited to this style of growing.

The golden hop, humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’, is another alternative. Because it is herbaceous in its habit, it will never drown its support plant but will add wonderful splashes of golden foliage in late spring and summer and then disappears by November.