Clematis In The Garden

All clematis require some form of support; that is in the very nature of
climbing plants. Even the herbaceous species have insufficiently strong stems to
be free standing. For many years, clematis have been thought of as climbers that
needed to be grown up a wall. Clematis are ideal for growing up pergolas and archways.

Walls

Clematis are very useful for covering walls with interesting foliage,
colorful flowers and often attractive
seed heads. Extensive walled areas over 3.6-4.5 m
(12-15 ft) in height and large gable ends of buildings
are best served by C. montana types, due to their vigor.
They will soon romp over such areas, covering them
with foliage and, on an established plant, thousands of
5 cm (2 in) wide white or pink flowers. They are also
excellent for disguising garden sheds.

Clematis do not cling onto walls as do ivy (Hedera
spp.) or Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus henryana), for
example. You will need to hammer in wall nails and
then stretch wires 45 cm (18 in) apart between them,
giving the clematis plenty of opportunity to wind their
leaf tendrils around them. Clematis montana and its clan
do not require annual pruning, so they are quite happy
to be left alone smothering the wall or buildings until
you feel they have outgrown their allotted space. Some
of the best for this purpose are C. m. f. grandiflora
(white) and C. m. ‘Elizabeth’ (scented pink flowers).

Alternative choices for walls and small buildings can
be found in C. tangutica and C. tibetana. Again, wall nails and wire will be required. In
theory, plants in this group need hard pruning but in
such locations they can generally be trimmed with garden shears during the autumn or early spring to reduce
some of their top growth, allowing fresh growth to
develop and attach itself to the remaining old stems.
Clematis such as C. tangutica ‘Bill Mackenzie’ are great
value for money in such locations, producing their
lovely yellow open cowbell-like flowers from mid-summer onwards to late autumn. Once the first flowers
have finished, the gorgeous fluffy seed heads are produced. This clematis therefore produces its own plant
association of attractive foliage, flowers and seed heads for approximately 4-5 months.

Walls of less than 3.6 m (12 ft) should have a range of
other plants, either climbers or wall-trained shrubs,
which clematis can be allowed to grow up and trail from
in a natural way with, of course, a little direction from
the gardener. Nearly all groups of clematis can be grown
in association with other wall-grown plants, but it is
worth taking time to select the clematis that will give
the best effect. There are several things that should be
taken into consideration, the first being whether the
host and clematis should flower at the same time. If so,
you must work out which color association you want- a matter of personal taste.

The large-flowered clematis cultivars including the
early and double and semi-double types, the midsummer and later summer-flowering cultivars would
all be suitable for growing with other wall-trained plants. The
early and double and semi-double large-flowered cultivars would all benefit from protection from the wind or
heavy rain given by shrubs such as ceanothus, pyracantha, winter-flowering jasmine, forsythia and Garrya
elliptica. A number of evergreen shrubs are ideal, giving
spring or summer flowers, some winter fruit, and year-round foliage cover.

Another aspect to bear in mind is that some clematis
flowers fade in strong sunlight faster than others. If the
plant association is for a south-facing wall, strong, deep
colors must be chosen rather than the paler-colored
clematis such as the pink/mauve striped C. ‘Nelly
Moser’, or C. ‘Hagley Hybrid’ with its pale shell-pink
flowers. Generally, the pinks and the paler striped
clematis, such as C. ‘Barbara Jackman’, will also disappoint on a south-facing aspect. The pale blues usually
retain their color, and deep blues and purples are also
good; the deep reds, such as C. ‘Niobe’ and C. ‘Ernest
Markham’, do not fade and in fact the latter is best
suited to a sunny south-facing aspect, where its wood
ripens better and it is more free-flowering. The pale
mauve/pink striped and pink clematis are better grown
on north-facing walls, where their flowers will not fade prematurely.

If you want the clematis to flower before the host, or
perhaps afterwards, a range of choices becomes available. If the host plant does not require pruning, choose
a light-pruning clematis. For example, C. alpina and
C. macropetala types would be ideal, although the host
would need to be 3-3.6 m (10-12 ft) high and of reasonable vigor or the rather dense foliage
of the clematis would swamp it totally. These two groups of clematis
have a great range of colored forms, through blue,
mauve, pink and white. Although they are quite happy
on a wall facing any direction, they are ideal for an
exposed location facing north, northeast or northwest
because of their very winter-hardy nature. They are also
ideal growing by themselves on low walls or fences,
where they will completely cover their allotted areas.

If clematis are required to flower after a spring- or
early summer-flowering host, the later flowers such as C. ‘Jackmanii’ ,C. ‘Victoria’, C. ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’
and C. ‘Madame Edouard Andre’ can be used. The
C. viticella types are also suitable, producing plenty of
small to medium-sized flowers in a range of colors from
white to pink, mauve, red and purple. The clematis
belonging to the C. ‘Jackmanii’ and C .viticella groups are
most useful for growing through deciduous or evergreen
host plants as their stems and foliage can be removed in
late autumn so that the host looks at its best without
being cluttered by untidy and soggy clematis leaves. The
final pruning can be done in late winter.
Both the C. ‘Jackmanii’ and C. viticella types are ideal for
growing with wall-trained roses, giving additional
color when the roses are flowering.

The best time for planning the association is when
the host is flowering or in fruit, followed by autumn or
very early spring planting for the clematis.

Pergolas and archways

Clematis are ideal for growing up pergolas and archways. The less rampant species, such as C. alpina,
C. macropetala, the large-flowered cultivars and the
C. viticella types, would beautify the supports and lower
parts of a pergola, but you would need the more vigorous
C. montana types or C. tangutica or C. tibetana to clothe
the top of a pergola or large archway and give shade
beneath. The vigorous C. ‘Huldine’ would do well in
such a situation and its flowers, which have semi-transparent tepals of pearly white with three mauve ribs on
the underside, are best appreciated from below.
Another choice would be C. viticella ‘Polish Spirit’, which has deep purple flowers.

A pergola should not be given over entirely to clematis as it would be very dull
during the winter months.
Combine the clematis with evergreen plants that will
give interest in winter and allow the clematis to take
over in summer. Late spring large-flowered cultivars
can be planted to grow through the lower stems of ceanothus or pyracantha. Co viticella types such as the red-flowered c. v. ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ will give startling
color
during mid- and late summer. The green-tipped white
flowers of C. v. ‘Alba Luxurians’ are nodding and blow around in the breeze just
like butterflies, and the plant will grow to 3.6 m (12 ft). Another relatively
new clematis, C. ‘Petit Faucon, is a very free-flowering plant reaching only about 1 m (3 1/4 ft)
in height. Its deep blue nodding flowers are produced
for three months non-stop from early summer onwards,
making it ideal for clothing the lower part of the
support poles to a pergola. A near relative, C. ‘Eriostemon’, which grows to about 2 m (6 1/2 ft), would
also be effective here. Both of these clematis need to
be tied into their support or host as they are of a non-clinging nature.

Large trees and conifers

Large trees such as pines can be clothed in flowers each
spring if a C. montana in white or pink is planted to grow
up into their branches. A well-established C. montana
var. rubens growing up into a large old Corsican pine with
large limbs, for instance, makes a perfect combination. When an established plant is in full flower in late spring
it really can look like a pink waterfall cascading down the
branches of such a majestic tree. C. montana types are
also ideal for growing into established conifers such as
thuja, giving interest each spring. However, the host tree
needs to be of an open habit and at least 7.6-9 m
(25-30 ft) in height. Smaller, more densely foliaged
conifers would become overwhelmed and their foliage
spoiled by the density of the clematis’s growth.

Two of the less vigorous cultivars of C. montana are
C. m. ‘Tetrarose’ and C. m. ‘Freda’. The former has
most attractive bronze-green leaves with serrated edges
and its saucer-shaped deep mauve pink flowers are the
largest of the C. montana group. It blends perfectly with
golden-foliaged conifers. C. montana ‘Freda’ has the
deepest colored mauve/pink flowers of all the group. It
is ideal for growing into small conifers of only 4.5-6 m (15-20 ft) in height, and again will blend beautifully
with the golden-foliaged forms.

Deciduous trees such as elm,
beech and oak have such
attractive skeletons in winter that they should not be
used as a host for clematis. However, many of the fir
trees, for example Douglas fir and Scottish pine, often
have very bare trunks, especially when old, and this is
not such a pleasing sight. The C. montana group can be
used to disguise this, but other interesting clematis,
such as C. tangutica and its forms and C. tibetana ssp, will give added interest, flower
form, color and, of course, their delightful fluffy seed-heads which will stay on the plant right into the winter.

Small trees and large shrubs

C. viticella group offer a good
range of colors and look delightful flowering in moderate to small trees, such as cherry, Sorbus,

lilac and hawthorn. The delicate
pink/mauve-veined flowers of C. v. ‘Minuet’ look
absolutely charming as they tumble down from a lilac
tree. C. v. ‘Alba Luxurians’ growing into a sorbus with
grey foliage makes a delightful picture in mid-late summer, while the pink-flowered C. v. ‘Södertälje’ raised by
Magnus Johnson in Sweden is particularly stunning grown into young pine trees.

Holly trees (Ilex) also make great hosts for clematis.
The almond-scented starry white flowers of C. flammula are a great sight in late summer growing through
I. aquifolium. Its close cousin, C. x triternata ‘Rubromarginata’, also with tiny scented flowers which
have reddish pink margins to the tepals, can be planted to grow
through silver- or golden-variegated hollies.

Magnolias are marvelous small trees and their open
framework of branches offer ideal sites for some of the
mid-season large-flowered cultivars, such as C. ‘Marie
Boisselot’, C. ‘Henryi’ (both white), C. ‘General Sikorski’ and C. ‘Will
Goodwin’ (both blues).

Large evergreens such as rhododendrons can be used
most successfully as hosts for clematis. Rhododendrons
generally have a limited flowering period, mostly in the
mid- and late spring, and need to be given added interest
during the summer months and early autumn, so decorate them with the later
flowering clematis to give an extra splash
of summer color. There is a wide choice even from
within this group and it is important to be selective. Old and straggly rhododendrons with bare lower limbs can be
graced with any of the C. viticella group. Some of the
glaucous-foliage rhododendrons will make ideal backgrounds for the white and pink/mauve
C. viticella cultivars but darker-flowered cultivars, such as C. viticella
‘Royal Velours’ and C. viticella ‘Polish Spirit’, would be
lost against the dark evergreen leaves of such a host.

Other small-flowered cultivars or somewhat distinct
species, such as C. aethusifolia with its delicately cut
foliage and charming tiny yellow bell-like flowers, look
most attractive against the large leaves of rhododendrons. C. campaniflora, a close relative of C. viticella with
small bluish-white flowers, and C. flammula would also
be most attractive on such an evergreen, as would the
compact C. tangutica ‘Helios’, which reaches only about
2 m (6 1/2 ft) and bears open lantern-shaped yellow flowers.

The dark foliage of English yew trees
makes a splendid background for a range of white- or
pale-flowered clematis. If the clematis are planted to
grow into the outer branches, which on an old tree may be almost lying on the
ground, a strong stake tied to the branches will give something for the clematis
to anchor itself to, allowing it to get up into the tree. Only the hard-pruning
type should be used so that
the yew looks uncluttered during the winter months.
Choose from the following clematis to achieve the best
effect: C. aethusifolia (tiny yellow bell-shaped flowers),
C. campaniflora (nodding white flowers), C. x fargesioides ‘Summer Snow’ (syn. C. f. ‘Paul Farges’)
(clusters of white open flowers, suitable only on large, old
trees), C. flammula (masses of tiny white star-shaped
flowers), C. florida ‘Plena’ (unusual fully double creamy
white flowers), C. ‘Huldine’ (8 cm/3 1/4 in wide saucer-shaped flowers), C. rehderiana (scented cowslip-shaped
yellow flowers), C. serratifolia (nodding yellow lantern-shaped flowers), C. tangutica ‘Bill Mackenzie’ (yellow
open bell-shaped flowers, only for large trees), C. terniflora (masses of white star-shaped flowers, for sunny
areas only, as otherwise it is shy flowering) and
C. vitalba (insignificant cream flowers but good for old
unshapely trees where its much-prized fluffy seed heads
will adorn the tree until mid-winter if left unpruned
until late winter). If common ivy (Hedera helix) is covering the lower part of a large tree, its foliage can also be
used as a host for any of the same clematis.

Roses

Roses and clematis are natural companions, each complementing the other. The best roses to associate with
clematis are probably the old shrub roses, wall-trained
climbers or ramblers and roses growing on posts, arch:
ways, pergolas or freestanding poles.

C. viticella ‘Polish Spirit’ would be too vigorous for some wall-trained
roses as it reaches at least 4.5 m (15 ft) in height and is rather dense in
habit, but it would look outstanding grown over the climber Rosa ‘Kiftsgate’ or
the rambler R. ‘Bobbie James’. Of the clematis, the easiest for this purpose are
those that repeat flower or produce their flowers in the later part of early
summer. These can be pruned hard in spring. The early flowers are lost but the
main crop is produced on the new growth, generally in midsummer. Some of these
should be used as they add a wide range of colors to the C. ‘Jackmanii’ clan and
also different-shaped flowers, thus giving added interest and form to the
planting association. Some of this group are: C. Anna Louise (flowers: violet
with red/purple bar), C. ‘Elsa Späth’ (flowers:mid blue), C. ‘Gillian Blades’
(flowers: white with wavy edges to the tepals), C. ‘Kathleen Wheeler’ (flowers:
plumy purple with golden anthers), C. ‘Lady Northcliffe’ (flowers: Wedgwood
blue), C. Liberation (flowers: pink with cerise bar), C. ‘Masquerade’ (flowers:
mauvish blue), C. ‘Mrs. Cholmondeley’ (flowers: light lavender blue), C.
‘Moonlight’ (flowers: creamy yellow); C. ‘Niobe’ (flowers: deep red), C. ‘Snow
Queen’ (flowers: white with red anthers), C. ‘The President’ (flowers: rich
purple), C. Vino  (flowers: petunia red), C. ‘Warsaw Nike’ (flowers: rich
purple) and C. ‘Will Goodwin’ (flowers: pale blue).

Of the small-flowered species and their cultivars, particularly recommendable are C. aethusifolia, which has
foliage that would bring charm to any rose, C. ‘Arabella’
(a non-clinging rosy purple), C. ‘Durandii’ (a non-clinging clematis with large flowers of deep
indigo-blue), C. ‘Eriostemon’ (a non-clinging semi-nodding
purple blue), C. flammula (scented starry white flowers)
and C. Petit Faucon (non-clinging bronze
foliage and intense deep blue semi-nodding flowers),
which would be outstanding to cover the base of a rose
up to 1 m (3 1/4 ft). Some of the C. texensis group would
bring a variation of flower shape, for example the nodding-flowered cultivars C. texensis ‘Etoile Rose’ (deep
pink flowers) and C. t. ‘Pagoda’ (pink mauve flowers), while C. x triternata ‘Rubromarginata’ with red-purple tips to its tepals
and scented flowers would give charm and make a great
combination with a large wall-trained rose.

Of the C. ‘Jackmanii’ group, which associate particularly well with the old shrub roses, good choices are:
C. ‘ Ascotiensis’ (bright blue flowers), C. ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’
(bright mauve pink flowers), C. ‘Gipsy Queen’ (velvety violet purple flowers), C. ‘Hagley Hybrid’ (mauve
flowers) for north walls, C.
‘Jackmanii’ (dark velvet purple flowers), C. ‘Jackmanii Superba’
(rich velvet-purple flowers), C. ‘John Huxtable’ (the only white flowers),
C. ‘Madame Edouard Andre’ (dusky red flowers), C. ‘Madame
Grange’ (dusky velvet purple flowers), C. ‘Perle d’ Azur’ (outstanding sky blue
flowers), C. ‘Pink Fantasy’ (pale pink flowers), C.
‘Prince Charles’ (mauve blue flowers), C.’Rhapsody’ (sapphire
blue flowers), C. ‘Star of India’ (purple blue with carmine bar flowers), C.
‘Victoria’ (rosy purple flowers) and C. ‘Voluceau’ (petunia red flowers).

Perennial and mixed borders

The range of combinations is so vast that it is practicable only to give some
general guidelines about this type of mixed planting with clematis and
low-growing shrubs and perennial plants. There are two ways to approach this:
either make a detailed planting scheme before any planting takes place or let
the border establish itself and then note down some combination ideas during the
period when the border is flowering or is of some other particular interest.

At the back of a mixed border, there is often a wall or
a line of shrubs or conifers to give shelter and a backdrop for the plants in front of it. Formal hedges, such as
yew hedges, should be left uncluttered by clematis, but
if the hedge is informal and will require autumn trimming C. viticella types can be used as an added
splashh of color and interest for the mid- to late summer months.

Sometimes small trees, such as the golden-foliaged
Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’, are used as a foil to the
colorful perennials that flower throughout the summer and these call for a
colorful clematis, C. v. ‘Royal Velours’ perhaps, which will blend with other
reds or blues planted in the border. A clematis can be planted to enliven the
border at all times of year. Evergreen clematis species and their cultivars,
such as C. cirrhosa and C. c. ‘Freckles’, can be grown on a wall (generally a
sheltered south or south-west-facing one), either alone or with other
wall-trained climbers, to give foliage over the winter months and early flowers.
C. alpina and C. macropetala types will provide early flowers, some summer flowers and interesting
seed heads on a wall or fence, their density of growth giving protection to the perennials planted in front.

The early large-flowered cultivars, single, double and
semi-double, could be grown with other deciduous or
evergreen climbers or wall-trained shrubs to give early
summer color, some repeat flowering to give late summer color also. These
clematis are not suitable for fences
or informal hedges but could be grown with structural
evergreens such as free-standing Ceanothus or Viburnum
tinus. However, they are placed best through wall-trained
subjects which give protection to their large flowers.

Most large-flowered clematis can be used to grow at about 60 cm (2 ft)
above ground level. C. ‘Jackmanii’, with its deep purple
flowers, looks outstanding when grown through some of
the red-flowered dahlias such as Dahlia ‘Bishop of
Llandaff’ or D. ‘Bednall Beauty’. The same clematis and
C. ‘Jackmanii Superba’ make a pleasing contrast when grown with the variegated
fuchsia, Fuchsia magellanica
var. gracilis ‘Variegata’. C. ‘Madame Edouard Andre’,
with its dusky red flowers, also makes a good contrast
when grown through other red or orange perennials,
such as Potentilla ‘Gibson’s Scarlet’. The grey foliage of
Phlomis fruticosa and its yellow flowers give the much-
needed light background for the deep-purple clematis
such as C. ‘Madame Grange’. The bright blue flowers of
C. ‘Ascotiensis’ mix well with pink-flowering plants, and
would be outstanding with any cluster roses or through
the young foliage of Rosa glauca.

C. integrifolia (blue flowers), C. i. ‘Rosea’ (pink flowers) and C. i.
‘Alba’ (white flowers) are splendid in mixed borders. They
grow to about 60-75 cm (2-2 1/2 ft) and can be supported
by small twigs or pea-sticks or just allowed to form informal mounds. Their flowers are nodding open
bell shaped and C. integrifolia ‘Alba’ can be scented, though
this is variable. The C. heracleifolia group, which are
basically sub-shrubs, have enormous, usually pale
green, leaves which give added dimension and form,
and produce delightful pale blue hyacinth-shaped flowers which are generally scented, especially with
C. heracleifolia var. davidiana, which also has scented leaves in
the late autumn and grows to about 75 cm (2 1/2 ft).

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