I think the plants that surprised me the most this year were a verbena, the buddleja (my partner hates them, but I can't help but admire them), an oxalis, and the hops.
The hops shot up out from nowhere, and covered a rather ugly chicken coop completely, and are only now dying back. I think they die back to the ground, so no winter cover. In the summer they can get a little out of control, but you can easily trim them back.
Hops provide a stunning green blanket from spring to late summer. I'm not sure if a solid fence would provide adequate ventilation (?). Ours were happy on an east/west mesh with complete coverage on both the north and south sides.