Clematis

These hardy climbers trail over pagodas, trellises, walls and trees. They climb using twining leaf stalks and need support at first. The large flowers range from white, through pinks, reds and blues to deep purple.

Suitable site and soil. The roots need to be cool and moist but the plant should grow up into the sunlight. A few, such as ‘Nelly Moser’, need shade. Use manure or garden compost.

Cultivation and care. Pruning is crucial. For species clematis, remove dead or weak wood and keep tidy. For large-flowered garden hybrids flowering in early summer, trim back old branches after flowering. For those flowering in late 44 summer and autumn, prune hard to within 30cm – lft of ground level in late winter or early spring.

Propagation. Clematis is propagated by taking cuttings. Sowing seeds does not produce a true plant.

Recommended varieties. The species clematis C. alpina is blue and flowers in spring. C. montana is white, though the variety ‘Rubens’ is pink and ‘Elizabeth’ has large, soft pink flowers. C. tangutica has smallish, ‘lemon-peel’ flowers in late summer. Among hybrids try ‘Jackmanii Superba’ with its large, purple flowers in midsummer, ‘Henryi’ which has large, white flowers in early to midsummer, or ‘Lincoln Star’ with pink flowers in early and late summer.

Pests and diseases. Clematis wilt cause stems to rot and collapse. There is no cure, but avoid bruising stems.

PLANTING A CLEMATIS AGAINST A WALL

Dig a hole 45cm square and 30cm – 1 ft deep and about 45cm – 18in from the wall. Fill the bottom with well-rotted manure. Take plant from pot and place so that the top of the rootball is 2.5cm – 1in below general soil level and the plant is leaning at an angle towards the wall. Place a cane at the same angle. Fill in and firm. Water with at least 9 litres – 2 gallons and repeat regularly. Spray plant and surrounding soil with fungicide at the first sign of wilt, then cut plant back to a live bud or ground level.

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