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Tensioning Wire Ropes as Trellises: Planning

When are tension cables or wire ropes (tightly mounted steel cables) as plant supports useful? How important is the distance from the wall? Which wire rope arrangement is suitable when? Which construction design is recommended when? Which is better: a pre-assembled kit or my own compilation (from components)? Is every surface suitable? Here you can find answers to these questions, as well as other tips on choosing a suitable climbing assistance in rope tensioning technology. Stainless steel is recommended; otherwise, expect damage and rust with a lesser quality metal.

Cable-system as climbing aid for hops

The Use of Tensioning Cables

Wire ropes function in a variety of ways, depending on a climbing plant's growth type. Initially, they serve as a ladder for young shoots to grab hold of and climb. 'Twining plants' twine and twist their shoots directly around the cable, but a permanent entwining is only suitable with light or moderately-twining climbing plants. Vigorous twining plants, however, need to be guided parallel to the wire rope strands, as described for wisteria.

 

Old and shrubby plants are fixed to the cables by tying. Sometimes cables are used as a template/mould to 'force' the plants into particular shapes (the plant is strictly guided along those lines). Cables are also used as 'fall-protection' for self climbing plants, such as ivy.(See the photo gallery below).

Almost anyone can assemble a greening support system!

In FRONT of or BEHIND the Support System?

Where possible, the plant should always be guided in front of the support (trellis) system. This allows proper ventilation, without which, the plant is quite susceptible to mold. To this purpose, the trunk frame and branch work of climbing plants are built up on the outside of the ropes or trellis slats. The 'old wood' (older vines and branches) are tied and bound (see link for binding material) to the supporting wire ropes. The respective vine should not be allowed to grow around or behind a supporting wire rope.

 

Only when the purpose of the cable system is as a 'fall protection' (so the plant does not fall off the wall) will the shoots then need to interweave with the cables and may grow behind them. Young green shoots that do not become part of the main branch framework can be tucked behind ropes. These shoots are then removed during the pruning periods.

Pinning cable for climbing hydrangea
Pinning cable for climbing hydrangea winter picture

Wall Distance

A climbing aid (wire rope support system) should help the plants grow upward and allow them to ventilate by leaving sufficient space between the leaf mass and the facade. People have a tendency to overestimate the number of cables needed or go with overly excessive cable tension techniques...

What is important in the initial development phase of the plants later plays only a minor role. As plants grow and age, they catch, entwine, and anchor themselves with their own shoots, the young shoots will no longer depend on the cables to climb. They will naturally move towards the light and therefore towards the outside and there will automatically be an 'empty' space between the vegetation and the facade. The purpose of the trellising system is above all to support the trunk of the plant. Our medium trellis system ('medium kit')- with a 5 cm distance between the wall and the plant- is sufficient in most cases. For more information, see the individual climbing plants.

Wire rope (cable) as a climbing assistance; here climbing cables for clematis on a concrete retaining wall of the German Train railway-- heavy construction system of stainless steel cables
Wire cable as a climbing assistance. Here climbing cables for clematis on a concrete retaining wall of the German Train railway. Heavy construction system of stainless steel cables

Climbing Aids on Building Corners

If you wish to trellis branches of the same plant on two side of the same building (so, guiding plants around building corners), two separate climbing aids have to be placed on each wall. The gap is bridged with the vines' own shoots. Stouter/thicker shoots can also be led around the corner. The same goes for horizontal projections, like ledges.

Tension cable technology: tension cables for honeysuckle

Single Strands or Grid-Formation?

Some plants, like wisteria, are often only cultivated as a single strand (guided on one cable) because the pruning and care is easier. Planar structures, however, make more sense with most other plants. A question arises: shall the tensioned ropes be arranged individually, as parallel lines, or is a grid-like lattice structure better? For architectural reasons, it is sometimes necessary to arrange individual cable strands parallel to one another, without cross-connections (transverse/intersecting lines). This applies to both horizontal and vertical lines alike. Such trellises appear sleeker/more stream-lined, more pleasing, and can possibly provide better support with their lines in the design language of the building. For the plants themselves, however, lattice structures offer more 'grip' and are therefore preferable. In the wire rope systems section, you can review both options.

Support system as a privacy screen with plants
Support system as a privacy screen with plants

Choice of Cable (Wire Rope) System

Ideally, you already know what you would like to see growing on your facade... if so, find your respective chosen plant in our climbing plants section... there you can find the most suitable shapes for a cable trellis in the chart at the bottom of each page. Choose an arrangement ('wire rope system') fitting to your situation. The next step is to choose a construction style (easy, medium, heavy, massive...).

If, for whatever reason, you have not decided on a specific plant yet but wish to quickly assemble a trellis system, we have developed universal systems for you that are compatible with almost every plant (with the exception of vigorous twiners like wisteria): 1030, 4030, 5030, 5040, 7020, 7050, or 8010.

Different wire rope systems

Trellis Cable Systems in Multiple Designs

A word in advance: for climbing plant support systems, there is no real alternative to stainless steel. Other materials usually cause damage of some sort. Wire rope technology from FassadenGrün is exclusively made of high grade stainless steel. We offer five different construction designs: easy, light, medium, heavy, and massive. Basically, all of our pre-assembled wire rope systems ('kits') are available in these five styles, classifying them into different forms of design, wall distance, load capacity and price. Again, refer to the charts at the bottom of each climbing plant profile, to see which construction style (easy, light, medium, heavy, massive...) fits to which climbing plant.

Mounts for cable (trellis) systems

Kit or Composition of One's Own?

Many applications can be satisfied by FassadenGrün with the purchase of our ready-made kits, as opposed to buying a collection of individual parts. Such pre-assembled trellis sets are suitable for all wall types with the exception of: insulated walls (ETICS), cladding, and thin-walled concrete elements. Alternatives can be found for these cases. Very big greening fields can and should be grouped into several smaller fields, next to each other. This makes the use of standard wire rope systems easier.

 

When necessary, you can also modify and maximize basic growing formats by ordering components in addition to kits. Let FassadenGrün advise you on how to broaden and enlarge a greening. If you don’t see your solution, you can then look in the overview of Climbing Plants. You may find preferred arrangements for many cases, depending on your preference for more dense or spartan, horizontal, or vertical forms. With this knowledge, you can put your own original sets together in the "Individual Parts" section. The mounts themselves should have approximately the same wall distances as a comparable wire rope system.

Parts for simple support systems

Preventing Damage

Some climbing plants can cause considerable damage to buildings or wire rope systems. Please try to prevent this! Vigorous climbing plants (like wisteria) need special attention, especially on wire rope support systems.

Wisteria: bad idea! This corkscrew form will eventually deform and overstretch the wire rope the thicker and older the stem gets.
Wire rope deformation

Application Scenarios

Here you can see how different wire ropes of stainless steel can be used to create climbing-plant supports. For further impulses, peruse the galleries in our "Ideas" section. 

Support cables for a clematis
Clematis as a climbing plant on a wire rope system, "Light Construction" from FassadenGrün
Thicket creeper climbs up a wire rope system
Grapevines can also cling to a climbing plant support with its tendrils.
Support systems can be designed as flat, horizontal structures; here- for grapevines.
Creeper (Aktinidia Arguta) on a wire structure
Wall greening with climbing plants; see previous photo.
Scarlet Runner Beans entwine their way around and up a climbing support system.
Climbing plants (hops) on climbing plant supports
These subsequently installed wire ropes make a wall grid to which the already strong honeysuckle is fixed by tying. The new shoots will then cling to the cables and climb up.
Espalier fruit tied to the support system with binding material
These roses were tied to the climbing support system.
Different climbing plants were bound to this support frame.
Climbing support grid consisting of cable for espalier fruit (apricot)-- here the branches are not being lead along the grid lines, rather diagonally.
Strictly formed espalier fruit (pear) on a façade-- here the branches are lead exactly along the wire strands.
Pergola with wire rope for thicket creeper-- the branch arms will be guided along the wire strands.
Fall protection for ivy
Free-standing support system on a roof terrace