Clematis tangutica

This Asiatic species is a born scrambler, more at home among the branches of a shrub than on a trellis. Hardy and de-ciduous, it can climb to 20 feet (6 m), producing a succession of small, nodding yellow flowers, consisting of four thick-textured sepals, for two to three months in autumn. As each flower fades, it turns into a silky seedhead, flowers and .seed-heads together smothering the host plant in a confetti of yellow and silver. The leaves are light green, deeply cut, and very graceful.

A problem is choosing the host shrub, for the clematis can strangle any but the sturdiest bush. I find that the winter-flowering Viburnum farreri can take the strain,-its pink scented flowers taking over when the clematis has finally rung down the curtain. It gives the clematis the shade at the roots which it requires, but allows it to scramble upwards to flower in the sun. Reginald Farrer, referring to the wild, untidy growth of C. tangutica, likened the whole clematis family unkindly to the wild-haired character Struwwelpeter of the German children’s book, forgetting the full import of this sadistic tale.

Like many clematis, C. tangutica likes well-drained alkaline soil, and it should be pruned in early spring. It is impossible to prune such a muddled grower shoot by shoot; just take a handful of shoots at a time and cut them to a suitable place above the old wood, cutting above a pair of buds where you can.

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