White wisteria over a window of a cottage, in the Peak District in Derbyshire. Photograph: Deborah Vernon/Alamy
A planted welcome is a fine way to shape a home. Our Peckham house had a rose around the door – an April-flowering Rosa banksiae “Lutea”. It would have easily taken on the entire front of the house and I had to keep it in check, for the ladders were not long enough nor my tolerance of heights. In London it kept its apple-green foliage throughout the winter and the buds were visible as soon as life sprung into action in early March. By April the first flowers were open, delectable buttons doubled and trebled and a delicate primrose yellow. A flurry of flower would follow in the ensuing month that was dramatic enough to stop people in the street.
The front door is often your first impression of what lies within and what you plant around it will provide you with the chance of creating a mood. Wisteria will automatically have its influence, casting an air of sophistication much as a beautiful scarf might lift an ordinary suit. I have used Wisteria floribunda, with super-long racemes, around the frontage to our studio to upgrade the 1970s brickwork. Wisteria will often make you wait, and when it does flower I know that our arrival will be lifted by having to part the racemes to enter and its perfume will carry in when the door is open.
Though I want to keep things plain around the door of our farmhouse in Somerset I do have plans to flank it with espaliered pears. They will provide structure in winter and early blossom, and I am saving this position for “Beurre Hardy”, to ensure a good crop of buttery autumn foliage. They will earn their keep, because a plant in such a prime position needs to offer more than one delight in a year.
Wisteria and Jasminum officinale will demand the warmth to do well and to flower profusely, too. I have the aptly named Jasminum officinale “Clotted Cream” on an east-facing wall at the studio and think it might do rather better for the warmth of a south- or west-facing wall that will catch the heat of the day and hold it. The evergreen jasmine, Trachelospermum asiaticum, is the hardier of the two available and is adaptable to a cooler position, though once again it favours some sunshine at some point in the day.
A cooler wall facing east and receiving morning sunshine only or even a north wall with no sun might appear to present challenges, but honeysuckles are happy to adapt. Though they are hedgerow plants by nature, soaring up to the light, they have to make their way through the understorey to get there and can cope with the shade. “Graham Thomas”, my favourite, is a selection of our creamy yellow native. It will flower for months.
A golden rule of choosing climbers is never to mix plants that need different pruning regimes. Twiners are best kept together, and the plants that need regular pruning on their own, so that you do not end up with an impossible tangle as your first impression when arriving home.