What climber or shrub could I plant to cheer up my gloomy north-facing shed wall?
A north-facing position sounds very bleak. However it can be really sheltered because most of our prevailing winds come from the south-west. There won't be very much sunshine, although you may get a few odd rays close to the summer Solstice in June and July. It will probably be a dry site too, so anything you plant will need careful watering in its first growing season.
Some evergreens will cope and they include some cotoneasters, pyracanthas and berberis. These will provide bee-friendly flowers and brightly coloured berries for the birds. Pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ would be the best and this could be trained onto wires, or left free-standing. Or you could plant a large-leaved ivy, Hedera colchica 'Dentata Variegata', for its heart-shaped golden and green leaves. You could also plant another grey-green leaved shrub, Garrya elliptica, and this would produce green tassels in winter.
If you want flowers, climbing hydrangeas deliver white lacecap flowers in summer, although they shed their foliage in winter to reveal brown papery stems. H. anomala subsp. petiolaris is slow, but worth the wait and the white flowers would complement variegated foliage plants such as hostas. The very similar Schizophragma integrifolium has showier cream-white bracts, so it’s less dainty.
You might also consider a rose and the following are recommended for north-facing positions, the almost evergreen lemon-white ‘Alberic Barbier’ and the blush-white noisette ‘Mme Alfred Carrière’. Both will thrive and stay healthy. Of the two, ‘Mme Alfred Carrière, is less thorny.
Morello cherries will also grow on north walls, although you would have to net to prevent birds from stripping the fruit. (Pomona Fruits)
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