Clematis – Simply Elegant

Yesterday brought the first clematis blossoms in my gardens. Call them elegant, extravagant, graceful, old-fashioned … what ever … but don’t turn your back on growing clematis.   They cascade upward when given support, or at ground level when that is the only support available. The vines will gently intertwine through perennial shrubs such as rhododendron or along fences. A clematis cascading over a stone wall offers a perfect New England contrast – soft, gentle flowers vining freely along an inflexible, sturdy structure of stone.

My clematis collection, at four, is relatively small.  The oldest of these, Nelly Moser and Blue Moon, adorn the corners of the front porch where the vines can climb toward the sun, yet the roots can remain cool in dappled shade. Vines of Blue Moon are somewhat more vigorous and last year housed a tiny finch nest. When in full bloom, the vines, support, and even the bird’s nest completely disappeared behind a mass of color. I carefully prune dead portions from both of these varieties throughout the growing season and in early spring after new growth appears.

Clematis Nelly Moser1 5-5-10 Nelly Moser

Clematis Blue Moon4 5-5-10 Blue Moon

Clematis Crystal Fountain2 5-5-10 The newest in my collection is Crystal Fountain with a semi-double lilac-blue flower and pale green stamens.  It it still relatively small and is currently still in bud. Prune as noted above.

clematis sweet autumn 8-09My other vining beauty is Sweet Autumn Clematis – shown here at the end of last summer. I originally purchased two with the intent of having them grow on supports on either side of my front porch, but both succumbed to winter vole and/or chipmunk chomping. The one shown here volunteered to rise in a random near by location. It rewarded a quick transplant and some TLC, and now promises to grow taller, stronger, and to cover itself with even more flowers by August. This and other late blooming clematis such as the C. viticella group can be cut back severely in late winter or early spring as they produce new flower-producing growth from their base each season. Still, I only cut vines back to where new growth is evident, unless the vines have grown to an unruly level and need some serious reshaping.

If pruning clematis sends you into a tizzy, consult a good pruning manual such as The American Horticultural Society’s Pruning and Training by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce. Now is a great time to plant clematis in New England gardens.  Visit a trusted local nursery for hints of the colors and types available, but don’t pass by your chance to enjoy at least one of these graceful vines.

8 comments for “Clematis – Simply Elegant

  1. May 6, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Joene, What timing! I just planted my first clematis yesterday. It’s Comtesse de Bouchard, planted at the back of the fence border in hopes that it will eventually drape the fence with its blooms.

  2. May 7, 2010 at 7:01 am

    For me pruning Clematis is a real challenge. I usually take out the dead branches in early spring, but even dead looking branches will have new growth further up. Fortunately established plants are pretty tough and they have always bounced back from any misplace cuts. I’ll check out the AHS reference.

  3. joenesgarden
    May 7, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Jean, I don’t have Comtesse de Bouchard – cool name – but it looks like you can expect lovely pink blossoms.

  4. joenesgarden
    May 7, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Curtis, I usually wait until new growth shows then decide which of the branches to remove. The spent vines often help hold up new growth, particularly on smaller clematis vines. I also enjoy the seed pods, which is why I have clematis volunteers to plant elsewhere.

  5. May 7, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    The combination of clematis and a stone wall sounds perfect! I have never grown clematis. Last year I almost bought one, but the thing was too expensive. I may give in and plant one this year. The blooms are so beautiful, and there are so many varieties to choose from.

  6. joenesgarden
    May 7, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I could easily become a clematis junkie, Deborah. Now if they just had a sweet scent. You can buy them small. Don’t expect blooms the first year, but you’ll get some the second and even more the third.

  7. May 8, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Very envious of your clematis. I have a Nelly Moser which has never bloomed for me, probably because it needs more sun. How big is your collection?

  8. joenesgarden
    May 8, 2010 at 8:38 am

    I have just the clematis listed above, Linda, but I have planted and cared for other varieties at some client’s homes. They thrive in sun, but their roots prefer cool shade. I like to place a few good sized flat rocks around the base of clematis, then I usually plant another perennial nearby so clematis roots receive a good amount of shade during the heat of summer.
    I will plant more clematis as I create suitable locations for them.

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