Clema­tis de­lights in so many sit­u­a­tions

They’re pop­u­lar, they’re beau­ti­ful, and easy to grow. Stephen McCarthy sings the praises of the clema­tis.

The Leader (Tasman) - - GARDENING -

Def­i­nitely among the world’s most beau­ti­ful climb­ing flow­er­ing plants, clema­tis are also one of the most pop­u­lar with gar­den­ers. They come in many sizes from diminu­tive ex­am­ples like the one in the pho­to­graph, Clema­tis ‘‘Freck­les’’, to gi­ants which will grow 20 me­tres or more into a large tree. There are roughly 250 species of th­ese plants and many more hy­brids raised by nurs­ery­men.

Old Man’s Beard Clema­tis vi­talba is an ex­cep­tion­ally vig­or­ous grow­ing species in New Zealand where it has be­come a se­ri­ous pest in many ar­eas, seed­ing pro­lif­i­cally and grow­ing very quickly to smother the trees up which it clam­bers.

Most clema­tis are def­i­nitely bet­ter be­haved and make de­light­ful gar­den plants, par­tic­u­larly use­ful for cov­er­ing a trel­lis or grow­ing up a small tree or drap­ing shrubs to cre­ate a very in­for­mal ro­man­tic ef­fect.

Clema­tis are quite easy to grow pro­vid­ing a most ba­sic rule is ad­hered to : they do not like hav­ing their roots in hot sun­dried soil. Try to plant them in a po­si­tion where the fo­liage can climb into a sunny spot and the roots are in shade.

Mulching the root area to keep it cool and mois­ture-re­ten­tive will greatly im­prove plant vigour. They will grow in a wide range of soils, pre­fer­ring a good well-drained loamy soil to which well­rot­ted gar­den com­post has been added plus some form of lime.

Prob­a­bly the most pop­u­lar and easy to grow is Clema­tis mon­tana and its gar­den va­ri­eties. Be­ing quite vig­or­ous and with stems up to nine me­tres it is very use­ful for quickly cov­er­ing an un­sightly small shed, over walls or for use as an in­for­mal screen on a trel­lis. C. mon­tana has gar­den forms com­ing in shades from white pale to dark rose pink.

Sim­i­lar to our fa­mil­iar na­tive white clema­tis, the ev­er­green Chi­nese C. ar­mandii is a vig­or­ous climber with stems up to six me­tres long which pro­duce a frothy, spec­tac­u­lar dis­play of creamy-white flow­ers. Be­ing frost ten­der it needs to be grown in ar­eas where only light win­ter frosts are ex­pe­ri­enced.

The most spec­tac­u­lar flow­ers in the fam­ily be­long to the large-flow­ered gar­den clema­tis sec­tion, be­ing the prod­uct of com­plex hy­bridi­s­a­tion.

Th­ese pro­duce of­ten very large flow­ers up to 15 cm in di­am­e­ter and in a wide range of colours rang­ing from white pinks, mauves, pur­ple to bur­gundy red.

They look very spec­tac­u­lar when grow­ing in com­bi­na­tion with a climb­ing rose, mak­ing a de­li­ciously sump­tu­ous com­bi­na­tion.

Like all clema­tis they are gross feed­ers and re­spond well to an an­nual mulch of well rot­ted ma­nure or com­post, plus am­ple wa­ter in the dry sea­son.

Clema­tis can be kept un­der con­trol by prun­ing back the longer shoots on the more vig­or­ous va­ri­eties.

The large flow­ered sec­tion can be sim­i­larly pruned and can be com­pletely re­ju­ve­nated by very hard prun­ing al­most to ground level ev­ery so of­ten. This treat­ment of­ten pro­duces a very good flow­er­ing the fol­low­ing sea­son.

Clema­tis are usu­ally grown from cut­tings to keep the best flower forms as seedlings are vari­able. Also the size of the flow­ers varies with the sex of the plant in some species such as the well-known NZ na­tive C. pan­ic­u­lata, which has larger flow­ers on fe­male plants.

They are rea­son­ably easy to grow from cut­tings of hard­ened new growth taken about Jan­uary. Cut the stems into sec­tions just above ev­ery pair of leaves, with the stems be­ing short­ened to about 12cm if nec­es­sary. In­sert the cut­tings to a depth of about 5cm in a mix of sharp river sand plus a bit of sifted leaf mould around the edge of a large plas­tic pot.

Wa­ter the pot­ting mix well and put the pot in a large sealed plas­tic bag in a light place but out of di­rect sun­light. Mist them reg­u­larly to keep the at­mos­phere and soil moist and they should de­velop roots within about six weeks, when they can be re­pot­ted in in­di­vid­ual pots.

The thick­ish fleshy roots are frag­ile so be care­ful.

Beau­ti­ful climber: The charm­ing small flow­ers of Clema­tis ‘Freck­les’.

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