At A Glance: Two Clematis









The Clematis On The Bench

garden fountain
My garden is a fairly quiet affair, as evidenced in my Roundtable home garden/tour post yesterday.  A garden that provides sanctuary is of interest to me.  But as structured as my landscape is, there are those unexpected moments.  When I drove up yesterday, Buck had the fountain jets turned up full blast.  Those columns of water sparkling in the sun made me smile.  Buck cranked up those pumps, knowing I would be tired when I got home.  A little unexpected joy never hurt anyone!  Until the pots on the deck are planted, this is my first stop on my early evening tour of the garden.      

clematis trellis

Last year I raised the bed under my garden bench, edged it in steel,  and planted it with European ginger.  I added a pair of clematis, intending them to grow up one arm, and climb along the back of the bench.  I don’t have so many options for change in this part of my garden, but this was a small change that would prove to have a considerable impact.  Our warm March triggered a lot of really early growth. The vines were up and budded up before that interminable string of freezing nights we had in April.  I was sure I would loose all of the flowers, and perhaps some of the foliage, but that was not to be.  These clematis were unfazed by the freeze.

For the past month I have come home, anticipating the latest change to the clematis.  Buck is very patient about the fact that it is the first topic of discussion.  Watching the changes has truly been a pleasure.  It has also set me to thinking about them.  

This large flowered clematis is a variety called “The President”.  I have not really grown much in the way of clematis, except for the small flowered varieties.  I really like clematis vitacella violacea, and its hybrids such as Polish Spirit.  The sweet autumn clematis, and the spring flowering clematis montana are both lovely.  Watching my pair of large flowered clematis grow and bloom has been a small but significant pleasure.

My earliest exposure to clematis on the bench dates back 50 years.  My Mom always shopped at Semrau Nursery on Gratiot Avenue.  This would be the east side of the suburbs north of Detroit.  On every bench growing geraniums, interspersed and widely spaced,  clematis.  The most beautiful clematis vines I have ever seen.  Thier stakes were at least 4 feet tall-the vines spilled over the top.  I remember how luscious they were in leaf.   I was 12-yes, I remember.  

In my 30’s, I grew but one clematis.  It was called Sho-Un.  It was the longest blooming of all of my perennials, and it obligingly rebloomed.  After 4 years in a not so swell spot, I moved it.  It never skipped a beat.  I remember how astonished I was that a vine whose stems were brittle enough to break given an unkind word would survive a major move.  Those large pale blue flowers enchanted me.  It is hard to find now-I am sorry to say.

I have read plenty about clematis wilt.  I hate a problem in the garden over which I have no influence or control.  All of that literature and documentation is enough to deter any gardener from growing them.  This might account for why I have not grown them much-beyond the small flowered varieties that grow vigorously.  This large flowered pair has done well.  They are not fussy in the least bit.  Should I rethink the clematis?   

clematis blue ice
There are so many large flowered varieties of clematis available now.  Who could choose?  I chose this vine strictly on the basis of its very pale blue flowers.  I think it is called Blue Ice, but I could be wrong.  I bought the shape and the color-not a name. 

 Margaret Roach, gardener and writer extraordinnaire via her blog, A Way To Garden, posted about Brushwood nursery in the late winter.  They specialize in vining plants, and especially in clematis.  I read, and reread their list .  How would I choose?

May blooming clematis

I have a big love for the pale blue, and blue lavender varieties.  This would include Sho-Un, Will Goodwin, and Mrs. Cholmondeley (just say Mrs. Chumley-is this not friendly?).  How would I evaluate new varieties?  I did not order anything from Brushwood.  In retrospect, I should have.  Whatever seemed good to me.  Experimenting is part of the soul of good gardening. 

clematis the president

Beautiful flowers are not the only criteria for inclusion in my garden.  The flowers are next to the last.  I like plants that are vigorous.  They make me look good.  They reward me.  Tricky, stubbornly unresponsive and fussy plants leave me frustrated.  I don’t want to worry about whether I am a good and thoughtful gardener.  I want plants that thrive, and encourage me to keep gardening.

The new issue of Fine Gardening has quite an article about the best of the best clematis.  I am disappointed that there are no white, or pale blue varieties listed.  That disappointment lasted all of a minute.  Given the pleasure these two plants have given me this spring, I think I should plant lots of them.  Everywhere.  Take my chances.  I have really so little to loose.

large flowered clematis

A clematis vine takes up not one bit of space on the ground.  When properly sited, they grow towards the sky.  Their large single flowers are breathtaking.  This spring, I am thinking I should endow my garden with clematis-lots more of them. 


Do you have favorite varieties?  What pale blue, or heliotrope blue large flowered clematis grows well for you?  Do you have a white variety that you like?  Which variety is your best performer?  Where have you placed them?  How do you handle those brittle vines?  Do you grow them on the ground?  What are your favorites?  Could you please be so kind as to advise me which clematis I should try?  I am ready to try to grow more clematis.