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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in Comtesse de Bouchard (1)

Thursday
Oct292009

Comtesse de Bouchard: a Pink Flowering Vine for the Perennial Garden

Problem solving is an exciting aspect of perennial gardening. When my neighbor installed a swimming pool last season, municipal by-laws compelled him to secure his back yard. He chose to surround his property with a beige-colored vinyl mesh fence. My challenge was to camouflage that portion of the fence that divided our two properties.

The  plan was to cover the fence with flowering vines. I began the project by planting bluish-purple Clematis Durandii, purple-blue Clematis Jackmanii and vivid mauve-blue Clematis Elsa Spath.

This selection established a richly colored background to showcase perennials that would ultimately grow in front of the vines. Once the blue-purple theme was in place, I found an on-line supplier from whom I was able to purchase 2 unusual flowering vines: Schizophragma hydrangeoides Moonlight, with white flowers and Schizophragma hydrangeoides Rosea, blooming in pink. These arrived by mail, rather small in size, grew very little and did not bloom this first season. However the Clematis vines were mature when I bought them and they bloomed impressively.

The Clematis are happy in their location because the upper portions get sun and the roots are shaded by the perennials. Now that I see how well they have grown here, I am ready to kick it up a notch, so to speak. Next spring I plan to insert cyclamen-pink Clematis Comtesse de Bouchard between the purple-blue Clematis to create additional color drama. I understand that the pink petals might fade in the afternoon sun. I’ll take that chance. I have 40 feet of fence to cover and experimenting will be fun.

Comtesse de Bouchard belongs to that class of vines that needs trimming in the spring because it blooms on new growth. The truth is that I have never trimmed Clematis in the past. I want the vines of the previous season to act as supports for the following year’s growth; in winter, these now-brown bushy vines offer textural interest to the garden as well. Some gardeners report that Comtesse needs hard pruning. I wonder if it’s because the dense and heavy vines threaten the integrity of their support structures.

This pink Clematis was chosen because it is one of the most popular vines of its species. It produces flowers 5 inch wide. The petals, the texture of crêpe paper, appear to smother the vine in pink. It blooms from midsummer until early fall, in sun to part shade; it is hardy in zones 4 to 9 and can reach a height of anywhere from 6 to 12 feet. Some growers even report success growing this cultivar in full shade.

Because it is dense and heavy, it needs a strong structure for climbing. Trellises made of light-weight wood are too weak. A sturdy fence, an arbor or a pergola are all ideal supports. Like most Clematis, it will require help to establish itself upright for the first few years. Then, the previous season’s vines will trap some of the upward reaching new growth. The gardener will only have to assist part of the vine to climb. I am fortunate that my neighbor sunk his fence posts into reinforced concrete for strength and chose vinyl wire mesh fencing. The wires eliminate the need for cord or stakes to support my vines. All I need to do is to insert a petiole into the mesh. By naturaly twining itself around the wire, the petiole will keep the vine growing in an upright direction.