GARDENING THE smell of honeysuckle on a balmy summer evening is one of those quintessentially English garden experiences.
Warm evenings may not have been in plentiful supply but honeysuckle and climbers sheltered from the harsh gales have done well this year.
They disguise ugly or bland areas in the garden — great for softening bare walls or adding extra interest to trunks of trees, alive or dead.
My spring-flowering clematis montana, planted more than 20 years ago where its roots can remain cool, is living testament to that. Left un-pruned it has wound its way high into a huge mature oak, where it puts on a startling white show against the backdrop of fresh oak leaf.
Trellises, pergolas and arches are not complete without the weaving tendrils of a climber adding another dimension to your garden.
Novice gardeners are often surprised by the tenacity of these useful plants. Clematis, especially, is much happier growing in the company of other plants as their roots benefit from the protection the companion plant provides.
But ask the experts at your local garden centre for advice when using a host as some varieties of climbers could strangle a less established tree.
As a rule of thumb, the smaller the flower the more vigorous, and potentially dominant, the clematis.
Clematis viticella will bring beautiful colour to the garden from late summer until early autumn.
Look out for clematis alba luxurians, with its gorgeous green-tipped white sepals, etoile violette, with its violet-purple flowers, or purpurea plena elegans, which bears abundant double flowers with purplish-mauve sepals.
For fabulous fragrance and flowers in mid and late summer, choose lonicera periclymenum, better-known as common honeysuckle.
Flowers are white–yellow with a flush of red. Serotina (popular name late Dutch honeysuckle) bears creamy white flowers while lonicera sempervirens is an orange-red colour. Graham Thomas is also a fantastic choice, having an exceptionally long flowering period.
Runner beans have not been easy this year but with a tendency toward Indian summers, gardeners can take the opportunity to make a late sowing in ground left vacant after harvesting other crops.
They too make a brilliant, annual climbing display.
At Sandlands, one neighbouring plotholder, whose earlier efforts were decimated by slugs, the cold, wet and wind has just put in a second lot and they are doing well.
The Royal Horticultural Society advises sow seeds two inches deep and nine inches apart in well-prepared ground in beds, borders or large containers of potting compost. Provide wigwams of canes for support — they can double up as an ornamental feature.
Alternatively, sow the seeds in a traditional double row with 18ins between the two rows. Train each plant individually up an inwardly sloping 8ft bamboo cane tied to a horizontal 'cross-bar’ cane at the top to make a tunnel of canes.
Loosely tie young plants to their canes — later they will climb on their own. Water regularly, especially during flowering, to ensure good pod set.
Remove the growing point once the plants reach the top of their supports.
Harvest pods daily when they are 6ins or so long to prevent them becoming stringy.