How I Selected Vines and Shrubs to Cover a Fence

When I moved into my home, I inherited a neglected garden that was surrounded by a cyclone fence with brown vinyl slats.  From the start, my goal was to disguise the fence as quickly as possible using evergreen shrubs and clematis.  Impatient as I was, I took a year to assess my site.

One way I did this was to discover the views of my garden from inside my house.  My kitchen window affords the most interesting view.  I created a landscape that would please me as I cooked and did the dishes.  Roses, lilies, peonies and the like created a colorful view during the spring and summer, but I wanted year-round interest.   After the year of deliberation, I decided to plant the fence with Jasminum officinale and Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’.  I dreamed of having fragrant white flowers from the jasmine in summer echoed in the winter with the creamy bells of the clematis.  This combination has turned out to be a success.  The jasmine is now fully mature and reaches up into a nearby spruce.  Its stems are always green and attractive.  During a mild winter, it will even retain some leaves.  The blooms are small but numerous enough to be visible from my window.

Clematis cirrhosa 'Wisley Cream'

In the winter, the clematis takes over.  Its foliage is surprisingly glossy and attractive and the bell-flowers are of a size that makes them clearly visible from a distance.  Wisley Cream begins to bloom in late October most years and continues until March.  Only dips in temperature to the lower 20s or upper teens delay the blooms.  As soon as the temperature rises into the upper 30s during the day, the blooms begin to open again.  The fence has protected the plant from the fierce east winds that do damage to many evergreen plants in the Portland area.

Clematis 'Viola' blooms in front of Hydrangea 'Preziosa'

One other window I gaze out of is the dining room window.  From my usual seat I wanted to be able to see shrubs and clematis all summer.  I chose the semi-evergreen Daphne bholua to serve as a screen.  It also offers winter interest as long as the winter is not too severe.  On the fence I planted Clematis ‘Viola’, a summer-blooming clematis with royal purple flowers that are slightly cupped.  The vine has happily taken off and covers 12 feet of fence with stray stems climbing into the daphne and the hydrangeas that grow on either side of the fence.  A favorite, if accidental, combination is Viola straying onto the ripening mophead flowers of Hydrangea ‘Preziosa’.  The color of the clematis against the pale violet young mopheads make quite a show.

Combinations like these keep the garden lively and keep me involved with my garden throughout the seasons.



5 responses to “How I Selected Vines and Shrubs to Cover a Fence

  1. Thank you! This was very interesting, especially since I am looking for a Clematis for year-round interest. I live in Virginia, zone 6. Do you think the variety “Wisley Cream” would work here?


    • I talked it over with Maurice and he thinks it would probably be too cold. We have it listed as zone 7 and even then it needs some protection from wind to look its finest. If you had a protected area against the house it might be worth a try, but it could still be at risk.


  2. Wow. I didn’t know a clematis would bloom here in the winter! Cool. I have cedar fencing on the east side of our Clackamas, OR, lot that is pretty boring to look at. Maybe the jasmine/Wisley Cream would work there, or on the west side of our shed.
    By the way, I have 7 clematis in my front and back yards, and 4 of them consistently have wilt problems every year, even though they seem well-drained and have shaded roots; the other 3 grow and bloom like gangbusters. What causes the 4 to grow, bloom, and then half their healthy shoots with bloom buds wilt?


    • The jasmine/Wisley Cream combination should work in either location. As far as clematis wilt is concerned, there are many different factors that can lead to it. If the plants are young, they will often grow out of it after a few years. One of the other leading causes is that on spring bloomers the new growth is very soft and very easily damaged by the wind. This damage can be too small to see but can cause part of the vine to wilt. Just cut back any affected area and give the clematis a shot of fertilizer and it should come back in no time. If you are still having problems you could try moving the plant and put in a summer blooming variety which is less likely to wilt.


  3. Lost a lot of things this winter, but not the Agave you recommended. When in doubt, guess who I will be pelleting with questions from here on out.


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