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Climber to grow up half-dead tree?

hatty_hatty_ Posts: 98
Hi everyone! 

There is a small-ish, half dead ceanothus tree in our garden and I’m at a loss at what to do with it. 

It seems that half the tree is dead but the other half seems to be fine. 

There is a rather ugly stump where the previous garden owners sawed off a dead branch. 

I don’t particularly want to chop the tree down. I’m thinking it would be nice to grow a climber up the tree to hide the stump and provide some interest. 

What climbers would you recommend?
Photo was taken today. The ceanothus tree is tied to a support stump thing as you can see and the orange coloured blossom is from other tree growing next to it.  Thanks! 


  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,530
    When I moved here, there was a dead tree in the back garden, the neighbours said it was a flowering cherry and had been OK the year before.  I decided to keep it to hang bird feeders, and planted a clematis between the tree and the fence.  I don't know the variety but it has small, pink, sweetly-scented flowers and is deciduous.  It has done very well, in five years it has reached the top of the tree.
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,391
    Clematis is the first thing coming to mind.  Viticella species like the scented 'Betty Corning' are pretty bomb-proof and gorws to 10ft but there are lots of others including evergreen ones like c. cirrhosa 'Freckles'.  I'd avoid armandii types though as they'll be off over that wall/roof behind in no time.

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • The garden across the road from me has some Virginia creeper growing over some old cherry trees and they put on a spectacular autumn display of red leaves but there is a chance it might be so vigorous that it could over run your half dead tree and finish it off.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,995
    I agree with @BobTheGardener ... one of the Clematis viticella varieties would be great ... as he says ‘Betty Corning’ is gorgeous, on of the few scented clems, and wouldn’t grow too big for that spot.  It is light and elegant. 

    Don’t be tempted by a Montana type ... it’ll be much too big and take over the whole of that end of the garden. 

    I wouldn’t go for a cirrhosa type either ... I think it could get too heavy for that tree. 

    I’d apply a good mulch to that area to get plenty of organic material incorporated into the soil which will help the clematis and the tree too. 

    Plant the clematis away from the tree roots and train it towards the tree. 
    Biodegradable jute netting wrapped loosely around the trunk can help the clematis find its way up into the branches. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,214
    I'd take it out altogether if it was mine, and put in a proper support for a climber, or a new shrub. Sorry.
    Unless you plant something evergreen, it's always going to look like what it is - a dead tree you're trying to hide.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Ladybird4Ladybird4 Posts: 36,217
    I agree completely with Fairygirl. Such a pity as Ceanothus are lovely shrubs.
    Cacoethes: An irresistible urge to do something inadvisable
  • lilysillylilysilly Posts: 511
    I would also remove it completely. It's never going to look attractive again. Ceanothus aren't very long lived , it's half dead already. If you plant a climber as it is now, and the rest of the tree dies you will need to remove it anyway, perhaps damaging the new climber in the process. We removed a ceanothus that curled up its toes, it wasn't that difficult to dig out the roots.
    That is a lovely spot to choose something to your own taste, that could give interest in some form all year, blossom, berries then Autumn leaf colour. You could even grow a clematis through your new choice. I grow clematis through nearly all my shrubs and taller roses.
     As it stands it is just your previous garden owners eyesore 😃.
  • lily6lily6 Posts: 79
    I'd take the Ceanothus out. Choose something beautiful instead and plant some of the Viticellas to cover the fence up. 
  • MarlorenaMarlorena Posts: 7,920
    I would take the middle ground and saw off any living top parts to leave a Y shape trunk that will now be dead...but offers some value in its structure...  then grow a 6-8 foot short climbing rose or clematis up it...
    The Ceanothus is most likely one called 'Concha' looking at the shape... they cost less than a tenner and available everywhere, so easy to buy a fresh new one and plant it in the same border...
    East Anglia, England
  • hatty_hatty_ Posts: 98
    Thank you so much, everyone! You have really given me food for thought. 

    If if I was to take it out, could I do it myself or should I get a tree surgeon/someone who knows what they are doing to chop it down and get rid of the stump? 

    Similarly, if I chopped it down, what would you recommend to plant in its place? It’s a really lovely corner of the garden and a real suntrap towards the end of the day in summer. Hence why I like having a bit of shade as we put our garden table and chairs under it on the lawn. It’s also the main view from the kitchen window as I stand at the sink! 

    If, however, I kept it and took @Marlorena’s advice and planted a Betty Corning clematis (as per advice from @BobTheGardener and @Dovefromabove), would I have to chop the clematis down every year as it’s in group 3 so needs hard pruning? (Still new to the groupings of clematis).

    Very grateful for the advice. 
    I took some better pictures today:

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