There are gardeners who hesitate to plant clematis, fearing that, like hothouse flowers, they may require too much knowledge or care. Nothing could be further from the truth – they are actually quite robust and no one can deny their beauty.
They are also long lived! Clematis has been known to stay bloomingly healthy until age 80-plus!
Clematis, unlike most other vines, offers us an endless selection of stunning bloom from spring right through fall. We tend to think of the large flowered types or perhaps the shy little wild clematis that produce those stunning seed heads after blooming, but varieties come with large, showy, single flowers to stunning doubles, elfin caps, bells and even flowers with exaggerated centres that look like spiders clinging to petals. They can have as few as four delicate petals to many multiples of petals and the colours range from white to brilliant red, from true blue to bright purple. There are even some yellows in the mix and a few have bi-coloured petals.
Often grown in miserly clumps on a vertical trellis, we too seldom take advantage of the design possibilities for these vines. Creative gardeners might grow them through the branches of a tree ( C. montana is particularly good at this) or a shrub. Plant multiple vines in a row to allow them clamber over the length of a fence or wall. Interplant them with another vine or even a climbing rose.
Planting and feeding
Contrary to what many believe, clematis is not fussy and is relatively easy to grow if you follow a couple of simple rules.
• Clematis needs its roots to be cool and moist. You can accomplish this by planting a shrub in front of the vine to keep the sun off the root zone, by mulching or even shading the area with a large rock.
• Plant clematis deeply, with at least six to eight inches of stem below grade. This will help keep the roots cool. For maximum safety, prepare a planting hole 18 inches deep and wide then fill the bottom with compost covered by soil and a handful of bone meal. The stem needs to be mature (not green) when buried to this depth.
Close-up of a clematis blossom.
Clematis ' Alpine Willy'.