The Art of Natural Climbing

Climbers are nature’s ‘carpets’ – a natural art founded on great wisdom. Have you ever asked yourself how they know how to climb? Come and take a closer look and get a few tips

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Parthenocissus quinquefolia (five-leaved ivy) climbing along the walls of the Visitors Pavilion

If you look at both sides of the approach to the main entrance gate to Ramat Hanadiv, you’ll see a green, living wall – Ficus pumila (climbing fig). Nearby, you’ll meet Parthenocissus quinquefolia (five-leaved ivy) climbing along the walls of the Visitors Pavilion next to the InfoShop; towards winter its leaves become red and give it a unique, spectacular look. In the fragrance garden during spring and summer, Combretum indicum (Chinese honeysuckle) flowers in a changing show of white, pink and red.

What these plants share in common is that in contrast to trees and shrubs, which grow upwards, they have their own wonderful mechanism that enables them to grip nearby surfaces – each plant with its own method – and climb not only upwards but also sideways. All they need is a fence, a wall or a post, and they do the rest of the work by themselves.

How does a climber climb?

In contrast to trees, which have a solid, strong trunk that supports the tree’s canopy, climbers climb using the principles of gripping or wrapping. Ivy (Hedera) and five-leaved ivy, for example, climb on walls, fences or tree trunks

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five-leaved ivy climbing

using gripping roots that develop from their stem. At the ends of the gripping roots are sticky pads. Other climbers, such as Chinese honeysuckle, wrap their main stem around posts or trees. Climbers such as grapes and peas use a tendril – a kind of arm that grows out of the stem; when it encounters something to grasp it twists up, wraps itself around it and pulls the plant upwards by means of touch sensors that signal to it to lengthen.

Wall, fence or post?

If you’re set on growing one of these wonderful plants, we’re happy to give you a few tips, from Lior Hershkowitz, the curator of our gardens:

  • What do you want the plant to climb on? If you want to cover a wall, a climber with sticky pads would be most suitable. For wrapping around a post you should choose a twisting climber. To cover a mesh fence, a climber with tendrils would be most suitable. Choose your climber according to these guidelines.
  • Check how much space you have in your garden for the climber, in order to choose the most suitable one – some climbers reach huge dimensions and have a tendency to take over, while others are more moderate.
  • Decide how high you want your climber to climb. Climbers can sometimes reach right up under the roof tiles.
  • Make sure the climber you have chosen is suitable for the light and shade conditions in the location you have chosen for it.
  • Take into account that climbers hold on strongly – getting rid of them after several years may involve quite a bit of work.

In the gardening courses that are run from time to time at Ramat Hanadiv, we learn more about these wonderful climbers and about many other types of plants. If you want to enjoy them in your garden, you’re welcome to sign up.

For details about the courses: orit@ramathanadiv.org.il

 

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