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Clematis - Six reasons to have some in your garden.

Clematis a feature for every week of the year

It's easy to be blasé about Clematis. We see them for sale almost everywhere. The supermarket; the corner shop; DIY store; and of course the nursery and garden centre. There are few people that haven't grown at least one of over 300 species. How can there be so many different varieties and more to the point, which ones are right for you?

Clematis, and indeed other climbers, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. There are evergreen, deciduous, bush and even groundcover varieties. A Clematis of one sort or another can be found in flower for at least 10 months of the year and there are very few varieties that aren't worth having. Some, of course, are more reliable and free-flowering than others. It's perfectly understandable that you might be seduced by enormous, colourful blooms which are sometimes the size of dinner plates.

Who wouldn't love Nelly Moser, with its pink stripes and elegant large flowers? This is a clematis with style! And quite rightly so. A large flowering Clematis is an uplifting sight. But the many charms of Clematis include flower shapes that resemble tulips, bells and tiny stars too. The graceful profusion of flowers is every bit as awe-inspiring as the sheer opulence of flower bling provided by the more showy varieties.

Some Clematis have flowers that resemble tulips or bells. They are not quite so full of bling, but equally charming.

Colours galore

Clematis flower colours come in almost everything you can imagine, including pink, white, red, purple, yellow and lilac. There are stripy, bold coloured masterpieces that would look at home on a Van Gogh canvas. Others are demurely nodding pastel pink bells that appear to have Grace as a second name. Let's be honest, Clematis are sheer heaven on a fence. So why not grow more?

This Clematis certainly has the wow factor. It would be difficult to walk past Clematis florida 'Sieboldii' without commenting.

Even the gnome seems to think this glorious Clematis is heavenly.

Clematis montana 'Elizabeth' is a lovely rambling climbing vine that has early flowers and a vigorous habit. The pale pink flowers are charming, and have a light scent too. Many people are worried that their Clematis will be too vigorous and will swamp not only their own fence but their neighbour's too. Indeed this can be true. The skill lies in careful selection coupled with appropriate pruning. Right plant for the right place. Don't be tempted by the random variety you see on the supermarket shelf, just because the picture is pretty. Research it first. It might well be right for you, but it's far better to decide which varieties you want and then go out and source them. Some grow to just 150cm and others grow to 8m tall.

This Clematis looks lovely draped on a garden building. But you probably wouldn't want it darkening your windows.

Pruning... help!

Having selected your most luscious and desirable forms of this climbing vine, the next thing to write in the mental diary is pruning. The very mention of this task can send many people into jitters. But actually, it's as simple as one, two, three.  The reason why pruning is necessary is to encourage strong growth and lots of those luscious flowers. It also keeps the size in check.  Before you even think about groups it's good practice to prune all types of Clematis in their very first spring. Prune down to about 40cm high, and always prune just above a healthy pair of growth shoots. This ensures that you start the way you mean to carry on and you don't have lots of leggy growth that doesn't produce flowers.

The stems of a bare, woody clematis don't look very appealing.

Clematis Groupies

When you purchase a Clematis, the label should tell you which pruning group to which it belongs. If you're not sure, you can work it out from the flowering pattern. Group one includes the spring-flowering varieties. These naturally flower on last year's shoots and, to apply logic, if you prune you will cut off a lot of the flowering potential. They don't need pruning! You might want to train them into the shape you require  and you might want to thin them out a bit. That's easy!

Clematis Group 1 is easy! Only a tiny amount of pruning is required. Group two includes the early flowering, large flowered hybrids that come in all those luscious colours. Their flowers will appear in May and June on new growth that comes from the previous year's growth. For example, the ever popular Nelly Moser (pink and white stripes) and The President (purple).  This group is easy too! Just prune gently in February order to keep a framework of old wood. You want to stimulate new shoots so you get more flowers.  You can do the same after flowering, if you wish. This keeps everything tidy.

This blousey beauty belongs to the pruning Group 2 category of Clematis. Group 3 includes the late-flowering Clematis. These are the ones that can become quite tangled if you don't get around to pruning. They flower from mid to late summer on new growth. So if you don't prune them, they will keep producing new growth and the flowers will only appear on the fresh shoots. They'll have a lot of woody, bare stems. Prune in February right down to the lower pair of buds.

Clematis Group 3 need to be pruned each year so they don't end up too woody.

To summarise...

Want an easy summary? If a Clematis flowers before mid-June, do not prune. If it flowers from late June onwards, prune in February. Simples!

Gardening made easy. It's simple

Wondering about the six reason to have Clematis?

  •  Flower colour for just about every month of the year;
  •  Beautiful seed heads  (almost as luscious as the flowers);
  •  A great way to hide and clothe a boring fence;
  •  Good wildlife potential - lots of insects love the flowers and birds can nest amongst the stems.
  •  Add height and screening. The evergreen varieties are particularly appropriate.
  •  Scent: many varieties have a delicate aroma and others have a fragrant perfume.
By Perfect Plants


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