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Climbing PlantsHouses and apartment blocks have a bad habit of resembling harsh, square boxes where visual sterility rules the roost. This sad appearance, however, can be completely altered into something extremely welcoming if provision for climbing plants is factored into their design or, with careful thought, incorporated after construction is complete.

Climbing plants can also be used to create a touch of vibrant life to older buildings of all kinds, thus transforming them from ‘negative boxes’ in to abodes of warmth and beauty.

Architectural plans for new buildings should include purpose designed planting boxes either as an integral part of exterior walls, passageways and gate entrances, while free-standing containers and an array of artistic planters (the size varies according to the species of the climber) can, when correctly placed and spaced, bring about amazingly eye-catching changes to older homes and even to office blocks and schools.

Some climbing plants, Virginia creeper, monsteria deliciosa and money plants being prime examples, all root directly into masonry and cement. If there is any concern about possible damage to the façade by their extensive root systems, then varieties such as climbing roses, beaumontia grandiflora and bougainvilleas are better options although it is necessary to provide them with sturdy frameworks to climb up. These frameworks, which can be constructed from wire mesh, cane, strong twine or purpose designed metal grills, must be thoroughly fixed in place to prevent them – and the plants they support –  from crashing down at totally unexpected moments.

The cascading bright orange, massed blossoms of bignonia venusta, better known as golden shower, are a wonderful, if seasonal, option, as are various species of pomea, petrea volubilis, passiflora, philodendron, thunbergia grandiflora, grapevines and the glorious pink, white and crimson blossoms of the Rangoon creeper.

Growing flowering climbers, ornamental leaf varieties or climbers bearing fruits and vegetables, over walls, archways, garages and gateways is a fantastic way of softening architectural outlines while greening up the environment.

– B Khan 

First published in the ADBUZZZZ Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 15, 2014.