Clematis Hardy and Handsome Vine

Clematis they can be irresistible. Once you venture beyond the old-fashioned purple Clematis, it’s hard to resist becoming a clematis collector.
The large-flowered clematis hybrids are showy, and perhaps the most beautiful of all hardy vines. And the species are highly varied, interesting, beautiful and useful in a number of ways.

Clematis are usually acquired as young container-grown plants, set out either in early fall or in spring. Deeply spaded, rich, well drained soil, on the “sweet” or limy side, suits them best.

Set plants with the root crown covered a couple of inches deep. The runners are brittle and easy to snap, so handle them gently and tie them to a support to prevent their whipping about and breaking.

Clematis Long-Term Investment

Some of my best clematis are planted on the east side of a low wall which shades the ground in the afternoon and, with a leaf mulch, gives a cool, moist root run for the plants. But the vining runners clamber up into the sun, which seems to be essential for bloom.

Two vines that I had against a shady north wall grew well for several years but never had a flower until I moved them to a sunnier spot.
Hardy purple flowering Clematis on trellis

Clematis are long-term investments. Don’t look for spectacular effects the first year; even two or three flowers can be rewarding. With age they really pay off. At the peak spring season I’ve counted as many as 80 big blooms on my vine called ‘Ramona’ and smaller repeat flushes of flowers follow through the summer and fall.

One good feature is that the blossoms seem weatherproof, and each lasts more than a week. Of many desirable large-flowered varieties, I would certainly recommend lavender-blue ‘Ramona,’ the exquisite white Clematis lanuginosa candida, and well named ‘Crimson Star’ as a good trio to start with.

Our native wild trumpet vine is sometimes used as an ornamental, but it has faults – too vigorous growth for many situations and an annoying way of suckering up through flower beds and lawns all around where it is planted. With much showier flowers, the Chinese trumpet vine, Campsis grandiflora, grows easily and doesn’t spread so as to become a nuisance.

Trumpets are shorter but broader and more flared than in the American species. Why this excellent vine is so hard to find in nurseries is a mystery to me. Possibly this is because it lacks complete winter hardiness.

I’ve seen vines that have withstood brief sub-zero spells without damage, but the planting region did not have a deep, hard, all-winter freezing of the ground. In colder areas it would be safer to plant the hardier hybrid trumpet vine, ‘Madame Galen,’ which is similar to and nearly as pretty as the Chinese species.

Images: MarilynJane

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