Clematis Climbers for Outdoor Cultivation

There are herbaceous species of clematis, but the kinds we are concerned with here are all climbers with slender stems and tendrils with which to cling to twigs, wires, trellises or other not too stout supports. There are a great many different kinds and varieties, ranging from plants of quite modest size which can be trained up pillars, to sturdy climbers that will ascend tall trees or cover large outbuildings. Some have small flowers, some large, there are single, semi-double and fully

double-flowered varieties; the colour range is from white, pink and lavender to crimson and deep violet purple and there are varieties to bloom from early spring until autumn. Small wonder that clematis is the most popular of all climbing plants.


Clematis will thrive in most fertile soils and are particularly happy on chalk and limestone provided they are well fed. They do not transplant particularly well and so are best purchased in containers. They enjoy having their roots in the shade and their leaves in the sun which can be achieved by planting small shrubs or herbaceous plants around or in front of them to shade the soil. Some varieties, particularly some of the large-flowered hybrids, suffer from wilt disease which causes whole stems or even complete plants to collapse suddenly. The best preventative is to spray every fortnight each April and May with a copper fungicide.

Most kinds benefit from pruning and this may be essential if clematis have to be fitted to a particular area, but the pruning time and methods differ according to variety. Those that have finished flowering by the end of May can be pruned immediately after that as there will still be time for them to make good new growth for the following year. All the shoots that have just flowered can be removed, also some of the older growth if there is too much of it. Varieties that flower in May and June, often with some more flowers in the summer, are pruned in February when thin stems and side growths are shortened to strong growth buds or to. The new shoots that will then be starting. Again some of the old stems can be removed if there are too many of them, but a good framework of ‘vines’ must be retained as the flowers are produced on short stems from these.

Varieties that do not start to bloom until mid-summer or later are also pruned in February in the same way if they still have a lot of space to cover, but much harder if they have already filled their space, since they flower on long young shoots. It is quite safe to cut these varieties to within about 1 ft. of ground level if available space is limited.

Good small-flowered species are Clematis armandii, white, early spring, one of the few evergreen kinds, to 20 ft.; fiammula, white, scented, August—September, to 15 ft.; montana, white, and montana rubens, purplish pink, both May flowering, to 30 ft.; tangutica, yellow, July—October, to 15 ft.

Good large-flowered hybrids are Barbara Dibley, violet purple, May—August; ti • Comtesse de Bouchard, pink, June—August; Countess of Lovelace, pale blue, double, June—September; Daniel Deronda, purplish blue, semi-double in May—June, but single from July—September; Ernest Markham, petunia purple, July—September; Hagley Hybrid, pink, June—September; henryi, white, May—June and again August—September; jackmanii, violet purple, July—September, and jackmanii superba similar but wider sepals; Lasurstern, lavender blue, May—June and again August—September; Nelly Moser, mauve and carmine, May—June and again August—September ; Perle d’Azur, blue, June—August and Ville de Lyon, carmine, July—October.

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