What plant is more spectacular than a Clematis (KLEM’uh’tiss)? Oh, those gigantic stars glowing in the sun are hard to beat. Right now my Ville de Lyon (Clematis ‘Ville de Lyon’), which is a great and reliable performer, is covered with magenta blossoms the size of baseballs.
My newest one, Ernest Markham (C. ‘Ernest Markham’), already has three whopping flowers of cotton candy pink. My friend Lin gave it to me last spring and it has already climbed six feet up the iron arbor.
Tucked between a golden Chameocyparis and a purple Smokebush is Niobe (C. ‘Niobe’), dressed in deep ruby red.
Betty Corning (C. viticella ‘Betty Corning’) is just getting started, with five or six pale blue bells and dozens of buds. I have to admit this clematis does not stand out the way the others do. But this is a viticella variety, which means it resists Clematis wilt--not a small benefit. Betty also blooms June to September.
This year I am missing the glory of my Nelly Moser (C. ‘Nelly Moser’). For years, Nelly covered my cedar arbor with her striking mauve stars, marked in magenta. Her blossoms were 6 inches in diameter. But last year (a very wet summer), Nelly developed wilt and turned black. A heart wrenching sight.
I cut her back to the ground and in late winter I sprayed the ground with Actinovate, an organic fungicide.(www.naturalindustries.com) This spring was promising. She sent up vigorous green shoots early in the season. But by early May, the new growth was turning black as it did last year. I cut it back to the ground to prevent it from contaminating the other Clematis on the arbor. I guess what I have read is true: that once a Clematis has wilt, the only remedy is to remove the plant. Thus, the appeal of any Clematis viticella.
Sweet Autumn (Clematis terniflora) won’t bloom until August (as its name suggests). But it is well worth the wait! Tiny white stars by the hundreds will cover this vigorous vine and emit the sweetest of perfumes. I have planted it next to the deck to take advantage of its scent. I have never had any trouble with wilt or pests on this plant.
The varieties I have mentioned, from personal experience, are but a small fraction of the Clematis choices available. Look for one that appeals to you. The selection of colors, flower size and shape, height and bloom time is broad. And watch for the viticella strain to save yourself some heartache.
Follow the conventional wisdom, planting Clematis in sun* with their roots shaded and cool (plant a low perennial in front of it)--and provide support for their climbing. This year I am experimenting with bird netting on my arbors to provide more twining opportunities for the vines. So far, it is working well.
Note the name of the plant you have chosen so you will be able to look up the proper pruning directions. As with Hydrangeas, the variety you have will determine when it is appropriate to prune. It depends on whether the vine blooms on new growth, old growth or both. Keep it well fed and you will have a true star in your garden.
*You may know by now that my garden is in partial shade. So the varieties mentioned here all perform well in less than full sun. The Sweet Autumn is especially tolerant of part shade.
Tags: Hydrangea, Smokebush, Chameocyparis, Ernest Markham, Ville de Lyon, natural industries.com, Actinovate, fungicide, Clematis wilt, Clematis viticella, pruning, Clematis terniflora, Sweet Autumn, Niobe, Betty Corning, Nelly Moser, organic gardening, gardening in the Northeast, gardening in zone 6, CT gardening, Gardening in New England, flowering vines, Clematis