Clematis adds a sense of depth and beauty to our gardens with their lush, fragrant blossoms and rich green foliage. The majority of clematis’ are climbers, with several hundred species worldwide. Many of these are hardy and well suited to nearly every landscape and every gardening skill level. More importantly, a selection of Clematis ensures a full season of rich blossoms, vertical interest and romanticism.
Planting Clematis enables a gardener to have a thick crop of blossoms from early spring to late fall. This is accomplished by growing a variety of Clematis, all with different bloom times that can be grown together or planted in complimentary areas of the garden.
Most clematis produce single flowers that range in size from 1 inch to as large as 10 inches. Some varieties produce double flowers and some produce single and double flowers.
The blooms of clematis will often change color through the life of the flower, particularly when grown in full sun. The pastel colors hold their color best if grown in the shade.
In colder climates where temperatures drop below 0F (-20C), foundation planting and mulch are required to ensure a long life. Long days and high light provide ideal growing conditions.
New growth will come from buried dormant buds and the flowers will bloom in mid-summer.
To protect clematis from the reflective heat of the sun, plant behind a low growing shrub which will give shade to the first 3 feet of the plant. Double flowering varieties are not normally recommended for colder zones. If they freeze, only single flowers will appear in the next growing season.
In zones where temperatures do not drop below 0F (-20C), clematis plants are limited only by your ideas. They prefer full or filtered sun and need four or more hours of good light per day.
Clematis can be planted when the ground is workable. They react to the seasons like bulbs – vigorous root growth in summer and fall, flowers the following spring. If you choose to plant in the fall, prune the following spring. This will inhibit flowers for the first year but will promote root development and produce a bushier plant. If you plant in summer, ensure that you provide sufficient water to keep roots moist and cool.
Clematis need to be happy with their planting site for the next several decades, some clematis are over 80 years old and still blooming. They need a cool, moist place with plenty of water and regular, balanced feeding.
Dig a hole 18 inches deep by 18 inches wide. Cover the bottom with a good rich compost or well-rotted manure. Add enough topsoil to cover the compost and you are ready to plant. Place your well watered clematis in the hole so that 6 inches is below the soil line.
Plant a small shrub in front to allow a cool root run for the clematis.
An inappropriate pruning will delay flowering but all varieties will still flower well if left unpruned. However by not pruning the flowers may not cover the whole plant as they could. The first tip in pruning is to cut back all clematis around the first of February or March, after planting. You should see leaf buds develop as the plant awakens. Leave two sets of buds on each stem between where you make your cut and the soil level.
The following describes three main pruning categories:
A) Varieties that flower only on growth produced the previous year. Cut out weak or dead stems as soon as they finish blooming in May or June. Pruning later than June will result in fewer blooms the next spring.
B) Varieties that flower on wood that has been hardened by the previous year’s growth. Normal flowering patterns are flowers in May-June on the previous year’s growth and then a second bloom in September of the current season’s growth.
C) This variety blooms at the same time with last year’s growth and the current season’s growth. They normally bloom from June to September continuously.
For B and C, a light pruning is recommended in late February or March – with some variation in the length of stems. Any weak or dead stems should be removed and spacing of the stems will make room for next spring’s blooms to open pleasingly.
If the plant has been neglected, it can be rejuvenated by severely cutting back most of the growth.
D) These varieties bloom on the current year’s growth. Blooms commence in early summer and continue through the fall. Cut back the plants in late February or March; leave two strong sets of buds on each stem as close to ground level as possible. This will provide a plant with blooms that start at ground level and continue to the top of the plant.
From novice gardener to seasoned pro, Clematis is the perfect choice to add vibrancy, ambience and punch to our gardens. Its rich full canopy of scented blossoms will ensure a summer’s worth of memories, enjoyment and satisfaction.
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Excellent for training on trellises, fences, porches and posts. Particularly effective used with climbing roses or scrambling through shrub roses and deciduous shrubs. Requires support to climb. Prefer evenly moist, well drained, rich, slightly alkaline soil. Ample moisture in summer and early autumn is particularly important. The foliage and flowers prefer a sunny location, while the roots prefer a cool shaded situation. Annuals, perennials, ground covers, but not mulch, are satisfactory to shade the roots.
Pruning practice is related to flowering time and is divided into three groups with the corresponding Roman numeral appearing after the varietal name.
Group I: These clematis are the earliest to bloom, with the buds coming from the previous season’s stems. Thin and lightly prune to shape immediately after bloom.
Group II: These include many of the most spectacular and longest blooming of all clematis. They bloom primarily from the previous year’s stems, and therefore should not be pruned too heavily. Prune every year, in early spring just as the leaf buds start to unfurl. Remove dead or weak growth; prune only as far back as the first strong leaf buds. Spread and loosely tie the vines to their supports immediately after pruning. The Group II varieties are usually midseason bloomers, with later blooms coming on the current year’s growth. After the initial bloom fades, a light pruning enhances this rebloom.
Group III: These late-blooming clematis produce their flowers on the current season’s growth. They are best rejuvenated with heavy pruning every two to three years. Prune back to the lowest strong leaf buds (9 to 18 inches above ground level) in late winter or early spring. These varieties tend to make one very spectacular display. Delaying some pruning until March, or even April, will extend their blooming season. In years when rejuvenation is not required, a light trim in spring is beneficial. These are the best varieties to use intermingled with roses or other shrubs that require frequent pruning.
Two or even three contrasting varieties, with the same pruning requirements, planted together make an incredible display.
Alan Summers, president of Carroll Gardens, Inc., has over 30 years experience in gardening and landscape design. Visit CarrollGardens to learn more about Carroll Gardens, the weekly newsletter and the radio show.
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