Clematis: Stars of Summer

image

Clematis are the queen of flowering vines.  Alluring, diverse, they are best known for their large striking flowers in a wide range of colors from white to pink, red to burgundy, yellow and even black, but never orange.  The clematis can be bodaciously large such as the showy flat-faced flowers of the hybrids or gracefully petite with elegant bell-shaped flowers.  For sheer flowering power, few flowers rival the clematis.

image

Hardy to zone 5, clematis enjoy 6 hours of sun or more per day.  They prefer cool roots so plant the roots 2 to 4 inches lower in the soil than in the  container you buy the plant in.  Some gardeners like to place a rock over soil covering the roots to keep them cool.  Once the plant is established, this consideration grows less important as the roots can grow deeper in the soil, seeking cooler temperatures.

image

As any clematis lover knows, the tricky thing is to know when to prune them. Clematis falls in 2 classes:  those flowering on old growth and those flowering on new growth.  This distinction determines when to prune.  Old growth plants should be shaped in early spring and after flowering to control their size.  New growth plants can be cut back to 12 inches in late winter or early spring.  Since clematis can grow 6 to 13 feet tall and bush out 3 to 6 feet wide, pruning is essential to control size.

image

Because they are vigorous growers, the plants need support to climb.  Trellises, pergolas, arches and fences all provide good structure for these climbers.  I have them growing on old ladders, through a wrought iron screen repurposed into a trellis(here), intertwining an ice cream parlor chair repurposed into a planter(here) and around the mailbox, using twine to guide the vines.

image

Smaller new plants or dwarf varieties can even be planted in containers for vertical interest.

Clematis can add vertical interest in a planter fitted with a small trellis. Transplant into the ground at the end of the season.

Clematis can add vertical interest in a planter fitted with a small trellis. Transplant into the ground at the end of the season.

To extend their flowering season, think of sequential planting, choosing early, mid and late summer/fall bloomers.  Clematis consort well with other vines like honeysuckle, climbing hydrangeas, wisteria and even other clematis in complementary colors.  I have C. montana, a small flowered variety and an early bloomer, sharing a pergola with wisteria, which blooms as the clematis starts to fade.

image

Clematis are good companion plants to wend their way through trees and other plants.  I grow some through lilacs.  They pair beautfifully with climbing roses.

I don’t often think of cutting clematis for use in arrangements but there is no reason why not.  The flashy bodacious beauties are best floated alone.

Floating a single bloom in a bold art glass shallow dish.

Floating a single bloom in a bold art glass shallow dish.

imageimage

They add striking beauty in simple arrangements:

image image image

Smaller clematis can be cut on long sections of vines to cascade over a cottage arrangement in a pitcher.

Smaller clematis can be cut on long sections of vine to cascade over a cottage arrangement in a pitcher.

A talented fellow garden club member created these gorgeous floating bowls of flowers with clematis and other summer blooms as centerpieces.

image

imageimage

image.jpeg

At the end of the season, the spent clematis flowers deliver ornamental value with their silky seed heads.  The same clematis in summer, left and bringing fall interest, right.

For more information on clematis, I highly recommend the bible on these flowers:  An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Clematis by Mary Toomey and Everett Leeds.

I hope you have been inspired by this post on summer’s best climbling blooms.

“Beauty is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight,or springtime, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. You have only a few years in which to live really, perfectly, and fully. When your youth goes, your beauty will go with it, and then you will suddenly discover that there are no triumphs left for you…Time is jealous of you, and wars against your lilies and your roses. You will become sallow, and hollow-cheeked, and dull-eyed…Ah! realise your youth while you have it. Don’t squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar…Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing…The world belongs to you for a season…how tragic it would be if you were wasted. For there is such a little time that your youth will last. The common hillflowers wither, but they blossom again. The laburnum will be as yellow next June as it is now. In a month there will be purple stars on the clematis, and year after year the green night of its leaves will hold its purple stars. But we never get back our youth. The pulse of joy that beats in us at twenty, becomes sluggish. Our limbs fail, our senses rot. We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to…Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

8 thoughts on “Clematis: Stars of Summer

  1. Just love this post Johanne. I have one clematis right now, and would love to add another white one perhaps. I’m always in two minds about pruning or trimming as I’m not too sure what variety I have. Right now it is all brown and always does in August, but I dare not cut it back for fear of it not coming back the following year. I learned this lesson the hard way years ago when I was new to gardening. I always cut back my hydrangea bushes, and wondered why they never bloomed 🙂 Same concept. Spectacular photos! Love all your presentation ideas!

    • Thank you Loretta. I worked on this post throughout the summer and finally disciplined myself to write it as I was waiting for the movers yesterday! Mine are mostly brown now as well Loretta and they all get cut back and return. I suspect you have that variety. I don’t have any that are woody so it makes it easy. I cut them all back! I bet if you bring a flower to a nursery or you google images of clematis and find yours, you’ll be able to find out what type it is. They are hard working plants that deliver such beauty. I vote for you to plant another! 🌸💕🌸

      Johanne Lamarche

      >

  2. Johanne-
    Help my clematis! It is such a sad, poorly flowering soul. Every year the sadness grows.
    I will cut it back this year as I have never done so-did not realize it was similar to hydrangea cut schedule. Does it need fertilizer in the early Spring?
    Thank You!

    • How much sun does it get? I don’t fertilize anything except enrich the soil with compost now and then. If you want to try fertilizer, choose one for flowering plants. If you have never cut it back it is not likely you over pruned it. Failing to prune would only lead to an unruly plant. I am thinking not enough sun is more the problem.

      Johanne Lamarche

      >

  3. Clematis are beautiful and really add to any garden don’t they. I have two and both are in shades of white which I adore. When they are blooming they are show stoppers! They climb along our front side fence and people stop to take photos of them! Unfortunately in Nashville it is just so hot they have a short season of beauty. Lovely post as always, Teresa

    • Thanks Teresa! I am glad you can still grow some clematis in Nashville’s heat. Your white varieties sound stunning as they stop admirers in their tracks! Such great flowers! Wasn’t that Oscar Wilde quote depressing though? Only one I could find with clematis!

      Johanne Lamarche

      >

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s