Different Types of Boundary Walls
The higher the wall, the bolder the planting can be. Large-leaved vines (Vitis), figs (Ficus), Magnolia grandiflora, wisteria, Actinidia kolomikta, golden hop (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’), Clematis montana and stronger-growing climbing and rambler roses will all thrive on a sunny wall, and can be encouraged to intermingle to provide a cascade of colour and form.
A shady boundary wall is ideal for supporting the delicious culinary morello cherry (Prunus cerasus ‘Morello’) and ornamental plants such as camellias (if the soil is acid), honeysuckle (Lonicera), escallonia, virginia creeper (Parthenocissus) and Garrya elliptica, which will cheer up a winter wall with its long green catkins.
A lower wall, no more than 2m (6ft) high, is useful for less vigorous plants. Many clematis, pyracantha, most modern climbing roses, slower-growing ivies (Hedera), Euonymus fortunei and Viburnum x burkwoodii all make a splendid display.
Mixing and Matching
Planting the ground in front of a wall as a herbaceous or mixed border will make the most of its potential, although you must select plants that tolerate the dry conditions found at the base of a wall. Wall plants will form the back row of the design and those in front should complement both the wall plants and the wall itself. The texture of rugged brick and rough stonework is a good backdrop for larger, bolder flowers and foliage, while smooth brickwork, dressed stone and cement-rendered walls display dainty flowers such as jasmine (Jasminum) and finer foliage to good effect.
When planning for colour, an old brick wall in a sunny position is the perfect backdrop for a border designed with a ‘warm’ or ‘hot’ colour such as bright reds, yellows, orange and apricot-pinks. A pale limestone or mellow sandstone wall would be an ideal background for a cool white and silver theme. Take care, however, not to plant clashing colours: orange-reds and yellow shades look fine against an orange-red brick wall, but lavender-pink, mauve and crimson flowers might not.
Although summer is the most decorative season for plants growing against a wall, it is worth cultivating a nucleus of plants to provide interest at other times of the year. Autumn can be a riot of colour as the leaves of virginia creeper, ornamental vines and wisteria change colour, making a glorious background for late flowering border plants such as miscanthus, schizostylis, dahlias, red hot pokers (Kniphofia) and japanese anemones (Anemone x hybrida). Spring bulbs, doronicums and wallflowers (Erysimum) can be used to complement early flowering wall plants such as Forsythia suspensa and Clematis armandii, as well as the red, bronze and bright green young foliage of climbing roses.
In winter an attractive garden wall covered in now-leafless deciduous plants can be enjoyed in its own right. It should be kept in good repair, with all plant supports well maintained. The base, if it receives some winter sunshine, is generally warmer than the open garden, and therefore January is not too soon to expect signs of snowdrops and some jewel colours from early forms of crocus, aconites and Cyclamen coum planted near the wall.