The climbing and scrambling plants competing for space around the terrace all have different ways of holding on while they reach towards the light. The passion flower has the most elegant climbing technique, sending out long, delicate tendrils which start to coil as soon as they touch a potential support. The plant seems to recognise its own stems and doesn’t hang on to those, so it avoids tying itself in knots. The tendril in the picture has slipped through between the lobes of one of the plant’s own leaves to take a firm grip on a new shoot of star jasmine. Sometimes the coiling action is stimulated by contact with a possible support but the tendril slips free and is left looped decoratively in mid air. It’s no use to the plant like that and soon turns brown and brittle, as its supply of sap dries up.
The evergreen Clematis armandii climbs with the aid of powerful leaf stalks. If a developing petiole crosses a potential support it starts to grow in loops until it is firmly anchored, while the blade of the leaf realigns itself to keep facing towards the light. The clematis doesn’t avoid its own stems and leaves in the same way as the passion flower and one leaf sometimes cuts off the development of the next. It doesn’t look good but the plant is a vigorous and competitive climber, so it’s clearly getting something right.
The star jasmine climbs by winding new stems around a sturdy support as they extend. It doesn’t waste energy attaching every last shoot to a support but develops a firmly anchored framework with an overlay of lighter, flowering shoots. Older, grey barked stems have a rather reptilian look about them as the evenly spaced coils tighten around their chosen support.
The purple flowered clematis next to the Iceberg rose seems to have forgotten how to climb. It is a named variety, rather than a type species, and I guess it’s one that is easy to manage in the nursery trade. Plants that hang on to their neighbours at the first opportunity are awkward to move around. This clematis can’t hold on to its bamboo trellis without assistance but now it has reached the neighbouring rose it is scrambling happily through the prickly stems.