Most of us are fa­mil­iar with the showy, large-flow­ered clema­tis that be­gin their pa­rade this month.

NZ Gardener - - Contents -

Clema­tis is cool, says Kerry Car­man.

It is easy to en­joy their gen­tle twin­ing ways and foun­tains of bloom that so en­hance our trel­lises, arch­ways, ter­races and court­yards, chat­ting ami­ably with our climb­ing roses, and pro­vid­ing ev­er­green shrubs and small trees with an­other sea­son of colour. In short, gen­er­ally grac­ing our gar­dens with their vi­brant or pastel petals.

Some of my favourites over the years have been in this large-flow­ered group: ‘Nelly Moser’ and her chil­dren ‘Bees’ Ju­bilee’ and ‘Bar­bara Jack­man’, vel­vety pur­ple ‘Elsa Späth’, glow­ing ‘Fire­works’, claret ‘Niobe’ and ten­der pas­tels ‘Louise Rowe‘, ‘Ha­gley Hy­brid’ and ‘Pink Fan­tasy’ (a com­pact grower good for a con­tainer). The long-flow­er­ing dou­ble ‘Belle of Wok­ing’ in ten­der shades of sil­very mauve and ap­ple green peeps in my win­dow all sum­mer long.

But it is the more un­usual species, cul­ti­vars and fra­grant forms that ex­tend the sea­son and bring so much de­light through­out the year, par­tic­u­larly the scented sum­mer Clema­tis flam­mula and au­tumn’s Clema­tis terni­flora.

The herba­ceous forms Clema­tis in­te­gri­fo­lia, Clema­tis her­a­cleifo­lia and Clema­tis x jouini­ana with their more colour­ful hy­brids ‘Rooguchi’ and ‘Ara­bella’ form an­other long flow­er­ing group.

What all clema­tis have in com­mon is the need for their roots to be cher­ished.

They like cool, shaded moist soil, prefer­ably rich in leaf mould, where they can climb up to have their heads in the sun. One way to achieve this is to place a large flat stone or paver over the root area af­ter plant­ing.

All are rich feed­ers, the quan­tity of blooms di­rectly re­lat­ing to the amount of nour­ish­ment sup­plied. One spe­cial­ist grower ad­vises the ap­pli­ca­tion of blood and bone in early au­tumn, horse ma­nure, home­made com­post or Nitrophoska Blue in spring, then chicken or sheep pel­lets ev­ery fol­low­ing three weeks.

I give mine oc­ca­sional doses of liq­uid sea­weed if I think they need it.

The main thing is not to let them dry out at the roots in our long hot sum­mers.

An aid to this is to sink a length of pipe ver­ti­cally into the ground at plant­ing time. Leave a lit­tle above ground, into which you can pour wa­ter

to reach the root area more ef­fec­tively.

Fol­low­ing the early spring bloom­ing of our na­tive species come the many lovely hy­brids of Clema­tis alpina, Clema­tis ar­mandii, Clema­tis macropetala and

Clema­tis mon­tana groups. But Clema­tis ar­mandii is no plant for the small gar­den as, once es­tab­lished, it will swiftly romp away cre­at­ing over­whelm­ing cas­cades of blooms to cover the tops of trees for me­tres in ev­ery di­rec­tion. Its hy­brid ‘Ap­ple Blos­som’ is more re­strained. My plant now forms a shin­ing man­tle of close-packed pale pink blos­soms over the top of an old lemon­wood hedge, its lu­mi­nous flow­ers strongly fra­grant of vanilla in the moon­light.

If you want a blissful bower to re­treat to on hot mid­sum­mer days, try the in­tensely fra­grant Clema­tis flam­mula (aka vir­gin’s bower), fol­lowed by the sim­i­lar

Clema­tis terni­flora for au­tumn. Team these with a long-flow­er­ing climb­ing rose such as ‘Madame Al­fred Car­rière’, who won’t mind the shade cast by the clema­tis, which will pro­duce gusts of fragrance through the sum­mer nights.

Per­haps it is the herba­ceous, non-climb­ing clema­tis that are so use­ful in gar­den borders. Clema­tis recta strews its sur­round­ings with a cloud of white stars as does the pur­ple-fo­liaged form which ex­tends the sea­son with colour. Plant this one in the sun as dark-leaved plants strug­gle to pho­to­syn­the­sise in shade.

Clema­tis x jouini­ana, Clema­tis

her­a­cleifo­lia, Clema­tis in­te­gri­fo­lia and their off­spring are all non-climb­ing but will hap­pily scram­ble along at ground level to pro­vide ground­cover and sup­press weeds. Most have fra­grant, ice-blue flow­ers.

Two favourite cul­ti­vars in this group are vi­o­let ‘Ara­bella’ which neatly cov­ers the bare-legged lower re­gions of my yel­low ‘Gra­ham Thomas’ rose while nearby, Ja­panese-raised ‘Rooguchi’ thickly cov­ers a metal tri­pod with myr­i­ads of pur­ple and white lantern-shaped blooms with re­curved petal tips.

Both ‘Ara­bella’ and ‘Rooguchi’ are ex­tremely long flow­er­ing. I cut them back to the ground in win­ter though they will flower on both old and new wood.

As a gen­eral guide, most clema­tis do well if pruned di­rectly af­ter flow­er­ing – ex­cept for those that flower in late au­tumn and win­ter, bloom­ing only on the cur­rent sea­son’s growth.

Clema­tis ‘Rooguchi’.

Clema­tis her­a­cleifo­lia.

Scented Clema­tis terni­flora.

‘Elsa Späth’.


‘Belle of Wok­ing’.

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