Trellised walls, latticed fences and arches are prominent features in many flower gardens. Some are covered with climbing roses, some with flowering vines such as Clematis, and some with both. The combination of Roses and Clematis blooming together is beautiful. However, I am not inclined to train Roses to climb on trellises. More about that further down.
Mature Clematis vines are visually and emotionally satisfying for the perennial gardener because they supply a wall or a pillar of colored blooms whose visual impact cannot be duplicated by any other perennial. That is because they bloom at, and above, eye level and they are densely floriferous for the garden space they occupy.
When a neighbor installed a brown, latticed privacy fence to separate our respective properties, I intended to plant climbing roses to camouflage this unsightly divider.
Then, fellow garden blogger, Eileen, at Gatsby’s Gardens reminded me that training a climbing rose bush was a daunting effort. She cautioned me that the thorns on the branches of the rose climbers might gash a gardener’s skin, even when hands are gloved. Her information was enough to turn me away from rose climbers. I decided to focus on Clematis vines, instead.
Choosing Clematis can be overwhelming for me because I want to control bloom time. I am not happy with those that flowers for only one month or those that return to flourish again in late summer or fall.
I prefer a continuous output of flowers. In order to dial down the disappointment and stress that occur when Clematis fail to perform, I researched a wish list of some better know cultivars that bloom reliably for longer periods and I have posted their pictures in this blog. Online data revealed that all in this selection begin flowering either in June or July and remain in bloom until September. I hope that data is correct.
Each season, I will add one or two more of these varieties to my garden until the brown fence has been camouflaged. Specifically for this project, I will focus on the hotter shades that blend well with the color brown. C. Red Cardinal appears to be the most effective for this purpose.
I have read many blog entries from other gardeners who confess that they ignore the rules of pruning Clematis until the vines become too woody or stop blooming.
This spring will be the first time that I will have pruned one of my older Clematis, although I admit this should have been done two years ago, on its 10th birthday, when the dense bloom crop began to taper off.
When I saw my first Clematis growing in a friend’s garden, I noticed that he had used twine to attach the earliest year’s growth to a trellis.
At the outset of the following season, subsequent growth would be draped over last year’s vines and they would attach themselves to the closest twig. Then, without the need for twine, most of the Clematis vines were able to attach themselves to the older brush as they grew taller. Renegade shoots that grow away may be delicately woven by hand into the top layer of older vines. It takes very little contact with a narrow object for a Clematis vine to securely wrap its petioles around it for permanent support.
This family of plants does test gardeners’ endurance because it blooms sparsely for the first two years. It is only in their third year that Clematis rewards us for our patience with impressive flowering displays.
I focus on those plants that are richly hued because I want them to project from a distance. There is always some disappointment with those almost-pastel cultivars that appear colorful in photos but are bleached by strong daylight. It is difficult to control for that problem as the sun hits each garden, and each spot in a garden, differently. In the case of C. Henryi, a beloved but whitish cultivar, I will plant it next to dark blue or crimson Clematis in order to make its petals pop.
English style gardens are enhanced by dark blue or purple-blue varieties. They appear so strikingly in such gardens. However, care must be taken in determining what the word purple means. For some nurseries, it translates into dark wine - which is rather offensive in a pastel English garden. Even a plant tag with a photo may be insufficient to control for this variance. To avoid disappointment, it is best to first research the cultivar online. The descriptive text accompanying a photo of dark blue - purple-looking Clematis should read blue. When it reads purple, the flower might bloom in wine.
Some gardeners drape Clematis over rose bushes and ornamental shrubs. Even though it creates a very pretty picture, I avoid that kind of décor because of the extra tidying up that it necessitates, later in the fall. Busy, cold climate gardeners, whose winters arrive early, don’t always have enough mild - weather days to complete all their outdoor chores.