Lace-like veils of purest white ap­pear tossed over shrubs and mid-sized trees from our north­ern­most tip to Ste­wart Is­land.

NZ Gardener - - Contents -

Mar­garet Barker is com­pletely en­chanted by clema­tis

It’s the an­nual flow­er­ing of our much loved Clema­tis pan­ic­u­lata. Most con­ti­nents and many coun­tries have na­tive clema­tis but New Zealand’s clema­tis are spe­cial and dif­fer­ent.

Ours have male and fe­male flow­ers on dif­fer­ent plants. They are dioe­cious. Most for­eign clema­tis flow­ers have a texture that is matte; Clema­tis

pan­ic­u­lata shines like stars in the fir­ma­ment. And we have an alpine.

A lusty climber, Clema­tis pan­ic­u­lata is much-loved as a gar­den plant.

It’s con­spic­u­ous in flower but re­tains a chaste beauty.

A good deep soil that does not dry out is re­quired. Let it head for the sun on a shrub, tree or wooden fence. It doesn’t like wire or metal sup­ports.

Male flow­ers are larger, but fe­males have the added bonus of fluffy, dec­o­ra­tive seed heads. Both are re­quired for seedlings in your gar­den, per­haps to nat­u­ralise. Lar­nach Cas­tle gar­den boasts a par­tic­u­larly good se­lected form which I planted many years ago. It now tops a to­tara tree.

Climb­ing clema­tis can be prop­a­gated by tak­ing in­tern­odal cut­tings.

For most plants, a cut­ting is taken just be­low the node. That’s where the leaf or leaves join the stem. Clema­tis cut­tings strike roots taken half­way along the stem be­tween the clus­ters of leaves. Put the cut­tings in a deep pot of sand or per­lite, per­haps mixed in with peat. Put a plas­tic bag over the top to en­sure the leaves don’t wilt, put in shady place then wait pa­tiently. I demon­strated this method us­ing

Clema­tis pan­ic­u­lata to our ap­pren­tices. For­tu­nately for my cred­i­bil­ity, the cut­tings rooted. Plant out deeply, up to the node. An­other set of roots will form.

A de­li­cious per­fume hangs sweetly in the air of our South Seas Gar­den.

Coloured like rich jersey cream with a golden eye, Clema­tis forsteri is in flower. This plant is sel­dom seen in New Zealand gar­dens, or in gar­dens any­where. I don’t know why. Is it not in the shops? I grew my plants from seed, planted them out in a sunny spot and they grew. They flower on last year’s wood so don’t re­quire prun­ing un­less they need a tidy up.

A sen­sa­tion in elite gar­den­ing cir­cles around the world was cre­ated when the alpine Clema­tis mar­moraria was dis­cov­ered in the early 1970s.

An alpine clema­tis, it is rare, known only from a few lo­ca­tions: crevices in rocky sites in the mar­ble moun­tains of north­west Nel­son.

It’s a lit­tle sub-shrub which sends out run­ners. White flow­ers with six sepals are 2-3cm across with prom­i­nent yel­low an­thers or carpels. It’s so tiny and lov­able.

I’ve had one plant, a male, for many years and re­cently a friend gave me a pot of seedlings. I de­cided to plant them out in the rock gar­den by my orig­i­nal plant.

I amended the soil with lots of grit and some dolomite lime. I tipped the plants out of the pot and dis­cov­ered they had enor­mous roots, many times the size of the leafy top.

They have thrived. By that I mean they grew from 2cm to 4cm across. Then last spring one of the new plants flow­ered: a fe­male. I was re­warded with one seed which I sowed and I now pa­tiently await the spring. Will this seed ger­mi­nate?

Clema­tis mar­moraria.

Clema­tis pan­ic­u­lata on to­tara tree.

Clema­tis fos­teri.

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