by Sandra Venton, Master Gardener
Clematis and I have had a long and storied history. My first clematis was Clematis ‘Rosy O’Grady’ (Group 1), a hybrid of Clematis macropetala and Clematis alpina. It was huge, luxurious, hardy to the n’th degree, and never needed to be cut back. It was a lovely pink colour and grew on a trellis against our neighbour’s garage. I planted it in the 1960’s and it was still there when the house was sold in the 1980’s. ‘Rosy O’Grady’ was hybridized by Frank L. Skinner, and as far as I know, it is still available at some nurseries.
I moved into my own house in 1984 and promptly planted what was sold as ‘Lasurstern’, a pale blue clematis. It actually turned out to be a violet coloured ‘Jackmanii’ (Group 3) that ultimately took over half of the east-facing side of the house and last year reached the eaves. It actually grew for years in a big tangle that spread itself on top of everything near it, but when I got married in 2000, my husband, who had a soft spot in his heart for clematis, started tying it up and it actually came into its own.
Then came my love affair with Clematis x durandii (Group 3) an integrifolia cross with large indigo blue flowers. It doesn’t have any tendrils to hold it up. I have it growing in three places, two against tuteurs and one against the house wall. I keep saying that there simply isn’t enough blue in the garden and C. x durandii fits the bill to a ‘T’. It doesn’t grow as tall as ‘Jackmanii’, but manages to get to a respectable 6 feet, and has a definite place in my garden.
Next came ‘Pamiat Serdtsa’ (Group 3) an integrifolia cross from the Ukraine. It grows to about 6 feet and I would say that it probably took about 10 years for it to gain that height but it was well worth it! It has pale lavender/mauve flowers that never open all the way and look to me like ballerina skirts. People who see it have to go up to it to make sure that it’s real. The flowers are close to 3 inches long, and make a tremendous show in the summer.
On the basis of ‘Pamiat Serdtsa’ not being the same run of the mill large flowered clematis, I then turned to the viorna cultivar ‘Mrs. Harvey’ (Group 3), a lovely clematis with nodding small flowers of a deep blue going lighter towards the margins, with twisted and recurving tepals. It is currently growing with C. x durandii on one of the tuteurs and they make an outstanding combination. It grows to about 6 feet and tries to get higher, but the tuteur is only 6 feet high, so there’s not much room at the top!
As well, I found Clematis integrifolia ‘Rooguchi’ (Group 3). With smaller, bell-shaped, deep violet-blue flowers it is not quite as showy as ‘Mrs. Harvey”. I planted it with the other C. x durandii on the other tuteur. This one is a scrambler, and scramble it does, right over C. x durandii up to about 6 feet, and while it makes somewhat less of a statement from far away, it has its own charm.
Along with ‘Rooguchi’ and C. x durandii, I have planted ‘Niobe’ (Group 2), a red large-flowered clematis that is just coming into its own. The flowers are about 6 inches across and it will grow up to 8 feet. As the tuteur is only 6 feet tall there will be a cluster of red at the top. I’m really looking forward to seeing it when it reaches its full potential.
Clematis terniflora (Group 3), sweet autumn clematis, scrambles over anything and everything and will take over all vacant space in the garden. Although it is referred to as an “autumn” clematis, it does flower in the summer. I had it growing over a bower made up of rebar and plastic netting and it looked absolutely amazing right up until my husband decided that something in its vicinity absolutely needed to be cut down – it apparently got in the way and that was the end of its glory. It is still there, but has a long way to go to catch up with its former stature.
Clematis tangutica (Group 3), the golden clematis, is alive and well and clambering over a chicken wire trellis at the bottom of the garden. Unfortunately it is on the south side of the garden, and therefore all of the flowers face south, which doesn’t give me the flowers that I want on the north-facing side. Note to self: Dig it up and transplant to the north garden, and it will face south!
The last clematis that I planted was ‘Twinkle’, an integrifolia that only grows to two feet with pale white flowers and twisted tepals, which shade to a very pale blue at the base of the flower. It is planted at exactly the wrong spot, behind the tuteur that has C. x durandii and ‘Mrs. Harvey’ growing on it which reach up past 6 feet and totally hide poor ‘Twinkle’. Further note to self: Dig up ‘Twinkle’ and find a proper spot for it this spring!
I must not forget Clematis recta (Group 3), the bush clematis. I planted ‘Serious Black’, again in exactly the wrong spot (with the Austin roses on a raised bed), but moved it last fall into its ‘forever’ spot. It has dark purple leaves and white starry flowers, a combination that is drop-dead gorgeous!
There are 3 Pruning Groups.
Group 1 These early-flowering clematis burst into bloom in spring on the previous year’s growth.
Group 2 These large-flowered hybrids produce show-stopping blooms in spring and summer on both old (the previous year’s growth) and new wood. We can take a chance on it here in Manitoba.
Group 3 This late-flowering group produces flowers on the current season’s growth and is perfect for us!
Of all of these clematis cultivars, only Niobe belongs in Group 2 and doesn’t mind being pruned at the end of the summer. I also tried ‘Multi Blue’ (Group 2), a double large-flowered clematis, however it didn’t thrive, and finally gave up the ghost after about 3 years. Lesson learned. ‘Vyvyan Pennell’ (Group 2) was another double that didn’t make it in my Zone 3 garden, and you’d think that I would have stopped there, but I always push the envelope, and that time the envelope didn’t even want to open. Same lesson learned. Aside from ‘Niobe’ I have left the Pruning Group 2 alone!
I might also add that I also tried C. texensis ‘Gravetye Beauty’ (Group 3) with the same results. Obviously something that will grow in Texas probably won’t do well in Manitoba.
For further reference go to:
Clematis Database http://www.clematis.hull.ac.uk/index.cfm
The Gardener For Canadian Climates, Spring 2019. Ask Us by Maureen Troesch, p10-11
Royal Horticultural Society, Clematis https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=97