The First Lady–May’s Clematis of the Month


So many of the large-flowered clematis in my garden are blooming extremely early this year, as much as six – eight weeks ahead of schedule.  But whenever they choose to bloom, they look wonderful!

During my frequent strolls through the garden, I enjoy observing clematis in all their various stages–and, yes, sometimes I even talk to them.  This spring, Clematis ‘The First Lady’ talked back loudly, showing herself off to great advantage.  I purchased this clematis two or three years ago as Clematis ‘Rhapsody’, a clematis for which I had been hankering for some time.  Once I saw the first meager bloom, I knew I had purchased a misnamed plant.  But not until this year, when the poor clematis had built up enough strength to drag itself up out of the heavy shade of a big Fatshedera into the sunshine, did I really see what a gorgeous flower my mistake clematis produced–large lavender blooms (one flower actually measured 9 inches in diameter!), with contrasting burgundy stamens, ruffled edges, and textual ridges in the middle of each pointed petal.  Elegantissimo!  I was able to identify it as Clematis ‘The First Lady’ and seriously considered deeming this tough and beautiful plant Clematis of the Month for this month.

The First Lady3

Serendipitously, yesterday my yoga teacher described to me a clematis a friend gave her as a cut flower.  She has a fine eye for detail, so I was able to identify her unseen clematis from her description as Clematis ‘The First Lady.’  I showed her a photo on my smart phone to be sure and impressed both her and myself with my quick ID.  That clinched it–Clematis ‘The First Lady’ is Clematis of the Month for May in my garden this year!



Clematis ‘The First Lady’ is an American clematis introduced into commerce by Arthur Steffen in Long Island, New York, in 1989.  Mr. Steffen’s company is also responsible for introducing, in 1932, another gorgeous and famous American clematis, now grown throughout the world, Clematis Betty Corning.  The beauty of the name of May’s Clematis of the Month is that you can choose your own favorite First Lady to be represented by this clematis.  I know who mine is!

Below is a smattering of the many other worthy candidates blooming in my garden this month.


The satiny blooms of Clematis Louise Rowe


Clematis Rebecca


Clematis Ramona (lavender) with Clematis Marta


The ever-stunning Clematis Josephine


Clematis Cezanne


Clematis Fireworks


Clematis Utopia


Clematis Fujimusume–such a gorgeous blue!


Clematis Morning Mist–one of these blossoms measured 10 inches!



Clematis Climador (also known as Clematis Königskind)



Clematis Caroline (pink) with Clematis Vyvyan Pennell



Clematis Lord Herschell




The bells of Clematis Sonnette (also known as Clematis Peveril Peach)


Clematis Crystal Fountain (also known as Clematis Fairy Blue)

Clematis Garden Tour, Portland, Oregon Saturday, May 28


Luscher Farm in Lake Oswego, home of the Rogerson Clematis Collection

On Saturday, May 28, the Rogerson Clematis Collection, just south of Portland in Lake Oswego, will put on their 9th Annual Inviting Vines Garden Tour.  If you love clematis and are anywhere near Portland, Oregon, this is an event you should not miss!  You will see clematis galore and even be able to buy them.   I have enjoyed all but one of the tours over the years–and will be attending this one, too, along with a couple of friends.  Maybe a clematis or two will even hop in my car.  I have been to two of the three gardens on the tour–the Rogerson Clematis Collection and the Tuttle Garden.  Both are outstanding and both have literally hundreds of clematis, though of course not all in bloom at once.  The third garden, Ainsworth House, sounds fabulous, too.

Here’s what the Rogerson Clematis Collection has to say about the tour:

2016 Inviting Vines Garden Party and Tour
May 28, 2016,  10:00 am – 4 pm

Join us again for our much anticipated 9th Annual Inviting Vines garden tour event that this year includes two private gardens, and the Rogerson Clematis Garden at Luscher Farm. This is a day-long special garden event that includes tours, refreshments, and lectures highlighted by conversations and strolls with two gardeners passionate about clematis in their gardens and how to grow and display them in your garden. Inviting Vines is a special way for you to spend the day with “old” friends and make new ones. We love having the chance to visit with you all day long at our own event.  This is a wonderful way to spend the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend.

Tickets are $20/person and include access to the gardens (including detailed driving directions and garden descriptions), refreshments and lectures. You can see more about the gardens on the tour and purchase your tickets from the Rogerson Clematis Collection online here. Tickets purchased online from the Collection before Tuesday May 24th will be mailed to you to the address on your order. Tickets will also be available through the day of the tour at Portland Nursery, The Garden Gallery in Hubbard, Dennis’s 7 Dees, Garden Fever, 13th St. Nursery in Salem, Joy Creek Nursery in Scappoose and Gardener’s Choice in Tigard.

Below are a few clematis you just might see on the tour.


April’s Clematis of the Month: Clematis ‘Asao’


For the third year in a row here in Seattle, we have had the mixed blessing of a mild winter and warm spring–causing most clematis to bloom a full month early!  Except for Clematis montana ‘Vera’, C. ‘Asao’ and all the clematis below would normally bloom for me in late May and  early June, rather than in April.

In my garden, C. ‘Asao’ is the Clematis of the Month for April because of its stalwartness, as well as its beauty.  Since this clematis supposedly blooms on old wood, conventional clematis wisdom says that we should not prune it until spring, and then only lightly.  Well, the problem for me was that I planted C. ‘Asao’ in two large window boxes on either side of the front door.  In winter, they are downright ugly with big crusty, rusty brown leaves .  Yuch.  So a few years ago,  I worked hard to dig them out and replaced them with plants that bloom on new wood and can therefore be cut back in the fall, at least they can be in the Seattle area.   Unfortunately, the two replacements, C. ‘Parisienne’ on one side and C. ‘Justa’ on the other, didn’t stand a chance.  ‘Asao’ may have been down, but not out for the count.  Both specimens slowly came back from a few stray roots I didn’t clear away and crowded out their replacements.  Hrmph.  I ruthlessly cut them back every fall anyway and guess what!  They grow fast and bloom beautifully with single and semi-double flowers right on time–and they do it on new wood!  Go figure.

More April-Blooming Clematis


Clematis montana ‘Vera’ blooming 40′ up in an 80′ Port Orford Cedar.  Due to scads of April sun, blossoms are nearly white rather than the more usual pink.



Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’, always the first large-flowered clematis to show off in my garden, is such a welcome sight after the winter doldrums.


Clematis ‘Will Baron’ invariably follows close on the heels of C. ‘Guernsey Cream’.



Poor Clematis ‘Fair Rosamond’ had to be unceremoniously removed from her climbing structure in March due to a tree fall.  Never fear, no people or pets were harmed, damage was mainly superficial, and insurance covered it all!  In spite of the ill treatment, C. ‘Fair Rosamond’ bloomed  beautifully, draped over a nearby plant and lounging on the ground.  She’ll be returned to her usual spot after she finishes blooming.


And then there is the show-stopping Clematis ‘Josephine’.  Her blossoms speak for themselves.


Crystal Fountain

Clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’ just opening its first bloom.

Kahori no kimi

First dainty bell on Clematis ‘Kahori no kimi’.


Clematis ‘Louise Rowe’ always seems to have a special glow, whether pale lavender or sun-faded white.


The fabulous rich purple of the leaves and stems of Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’.  And check out the juicy buds about to burst into tiny white and fragrant flowers.


Stay tuned, because many, many clematis buds are swelling, elongating, and titillating my spirits.  I will have more and different beautiful clematis to show soon.

March Clematis of the Month: Clematis macropetala ‘Maidenwell Hall’


Finally, finally in late March I got my first clematis blossoms of the season!  Whooo hooo!  Four clematis alpinas and macropetalas in my garden have opened their beautiful blooms!  Clematis macropetala Maidenwell Hall gets the prize for March this year because this poor young plant got such a shaky start.   While visiting a nursery north of Seattle in the Skagit Valley in the heat of August, my friends and I found a 90% off table.  Lo and behold, there was a clematis there looking hot, dusty, and bedraggled.  A friend spotted C. Maidenwell Hall first, but she kindly allowed me to purchase the plant.  The plant obviously appreciated coming to a caring home, because it has most definitely perked up.  It’s off to such a good start that I will be able to give my friend some cuttings!  Here’s another shot taken in warm early morning light, which drew out the more purple tones.


Clematis alpinas and macropetalas (also called alpine clematis) are among the first of the clematis clan to bloom in the spring.  Their dainty bells, dangling among the delicate serrated leaves, signal the beginning of the long and continuous slide show of clematis blossoms that lasts into the winter.  Alpine clematis particularly enjoy growing in deciduous shade where they can soak up the warmth on sunny spring days, but later be sheltered from hot summer sun by the tree’s leaves.  These clematis, which grow to about 12-15′ or more, come in blues, purples, lavenders, pinks, and whites and are said to be hardy to Zone 3.  They rarely need pruning (unlike their more unruly late-spring and summer-blooming cousins).  The difference between Clematis alpina and Clematis macropetala is that the alpinas usually have only four tepals, or petals, while the macropetalas are double or semi-double.  Because of much cross-hybridizing, though, sometimes the distinction is a bit hazy.

Below are photos of the other three alpinas and macropetalas blooming in my garden.  Two more, Clematis alpina Willy and Clematis macropetala Cecile, are a bit shy to bloom so far this year.

Here’s Clematis alpina Blue Dancer (a former winner of Clematis of the Month).  It sports particularly long tepals.

Next up, Clematis macropetala Markham’s Pink, one of the most beautiful pink ones.

And finally we have Clematis macropetala Pauline, with rich blue and purple colors.



My very most favorite Display Garden at the Show–West Seattle Nursery’s south west desert.  It literally stopped me in my tracks–I love it!!

Opening day for the renowned Northwest Flower & Garden Show was today, and I was there!  This Seattle show is the 2nd largest flower show in the US and 3rd in the world (after the Philadelphia and Chelsea Flower Shows)!  I wandered around all day in bliss, soaking up the sights, sounds, and smells of blooming gardens, visiting with gardening friends, and listening to three delightful talks!




The Big Winner among Display Gardens–The Grant Tetons



Since seeing everything in one day is completely impossible, I will return tomorrow to make sure I don’t miss anything.  I will start at 7:30am at the Flower Show’s Tweet-Up for Twitter users who sign up ahead of time.  We get treated to coffee, pastries, and a great swag bag.  THEN we get to photograph the Display Gardens for nearly 1 1/2 before the public arrives and with all the lights still on.  Can’t wait!


Then I come again on Friday!  If you are in the Greater Seattle area and have the time and inclination, come hear me speak on Friday, 2/19, at 6:45pm in the Hood Room.  I will be talking about Growing Clematis in Small Spaces and showing inspiring photos of small clematis.  I’d love to see you there!


Monrovia Booth

I have much exploring yet to do, but I have already spied clematis!  Clematis REBECCA is blooming away in the Monrovia Booth (and they have plants for sale, too).  Click link to get more details about this clematis.


The delightful and delectable Clematis REBECCA at the Monrovia Booth.

Sundquist Nursery in the Plant Market

Sundquist Nursery has nine (count ’em, nine!!) different clematis for sale at their booth!  I don’t even have four of them.  Funny thing, I found those four clematis in my backpack when I got home.  I’ve NO IDEA how that happened!

A big note of caution, though.  These plants are very young rooted cuttings, packed bare root.  If you purchase one (I think they are about $12), please plant it in a smallish pot ASAP, keep it watered very well, maybe even once a day until you see new growth, then water normally (i.e., when the top inch or so of soil dries up a bit).  Because they are so young, grow them on in pots, potting up to a larger size once or twice, for at least a year.  Very young clematis planted directly in the ground often just melt away, never to be seen again.


Starting from top left, the Sundquist clematis are:

C. durandii
C. ‘Ruutel’  *
C. integrifolia ‘Alba’ (white)
C. ‘Rosalyn’  *
C. ‘Astra Nova’ *
C. ‘Alionushka’
C. ‘Westerplatte’ *
C. ‘Etoile de Malicorne’
C. ‘Princess Diana’

*These clematis showed up at my house somehow.

Clicking on a clematis above will take you to great information and a photo of that clematis on Clematis on the Web. 

So come on down to the Northwest Flower & Garden Show and see the display gardens, shop at the three large market places (including the plant market and the Vintage Market), and listen to one or two of the 100 speakers at the show!  Maybe I’ll see you there.








Clematis Bells

BucklandBeauty - Copy

Clematis ‘Buckland Beauty’–beautiful bell flowers inherited from Clematis texensis.

Gardeners who have a nodding acquaintance with clematis are often only aware of the big beautiful heart-stopping, jaw-dropping blossoms of late spring.  As one becomes more and more enamored with clematis and delves deeper into the genus, the dainty beauty and wide variety of the bell-shaped flowers are the ones that captivate.

The southeastern US is a breeding ground for many bell-flowered clematis species, which have long been widely used by hybridizers to create lovely new plants.  Clematis ‘Buckland Beauty’ above, for example, is the result of a cross between Clematis texensis (a red bell-flowered species from Texas) and one of the other species.

The Texensis Clan

In my last post, I described Clematis texensis and some of its progeny.  The species, which grows in Texas, is variable.  The flowers tend to have a downward-facing bell shape, usually with recurved tips, sometimes lined with white or yellow.  The inside of the tepals can be various shades of red, yellow, or white.


A lovely red Clematis texensis with white accents



A Clematis texensis seedling with reddish-purple outer tepals, white on edges and the underside



Here’s another, a bit pinker with a shorter flower.

Hybridizers discovered the wonderful red of Clematis texensis (also called the Scarlet Clematis) in the late 1800s, and still today exciting new hybrids come onto the market.  Crossing Clematis texensis with other types of clematis has resulted in an astonishing variety of new and beautiful plants, such as flatter blossoms of Clematis ‘Ville de Lyon’ and Clematis ‘Catherine Clanwilliam’ showcased in my last post.   Of course, many of the progeny have bell-shaped blossoms, like the aforementioned Clematis ‘Buckland Beauty’ and the following lovely offspring of this interesting species.


Clematis Sonnette climbing through a variegated Azara.



Clematis ‘Duchess of Albany’, hybridized using C. texensis 125 years ago!


Princess Diana

The beautiful Clematis ‘Princess Diana’



Clematis Princess Kate ‘Zoprika’, one of the newest texensis hybrids coming from J. van Zoest Nursery in The Netherlands.  Photo from J. van Zoest Nursery.

The Crispas

Clematis crispa is another American species, native in the southeastern US.  This sweet small bell flower often has tepals that curl strongly back on themselves.  It comes in many soft colors–white, light blue, mauve, pink.  The crowning glory for this clematis is its beautiful light fragrance.

Crispa2 - Copy

One form of Clematis crispa


BettyCorning07-12-2 - Copy

Clematis ‘Betty Corning’, discovered growing in a garden in Albany, is clearly a Clematis crispa seedling, especially given its delightful fragrance.


RedPrincess - Copy

Clematis ‘Red Princess’ certainly looks to be a Clematis crispa hybrid, but the color suggests that Clematis texensis might be the other parent!

The Viornas

Clematis viorna, like C. crispa and C. texensis, is one of over 20 species that are native to the southeastern US and Texas, which are all grouped together in the viorna section of the genus clematis.  Clematis viorna is just one of the many clematis in the viorna section.  It has flowers in the shape of small bells or urns that come in colors like red, pink, reddish brown, and purple.  Many plants sold as the species may actually be hybrids of Clematis viorna and another clematis in the larger viorna clan.


One of my two Clematis viorna.  This one pairs beautifully with Beauty Berry!



A different Clematis viorna looking adorable on my fence

Japanese Hybrids

Many interesting clematis with bell-shaped flowers have been coming out of Japan for many years.  Joy Creek Nursery is a good source for Japanese clematis.  Below are three examples.



The fragrant Clematis Kahori no Kimi–perhaps Clematis crispa is a parent?



Clematis Hakuji–another Clematis crispa descendent?



Clematis Shizuku–looking a little viorna-like?

The best sources I’ve found for bell flowers are Brushwood Nursery and Joy Creek Nursery.   So, come on–get one of these dainty-blossomed clematis for your very own!






Clematis of the Month, July 2015 – The Fabulous Texensis Clan


Clematis texensis, a species clematis from the river banks of Texas.

What a summer we had this year!  Zero rain coupled with excessive heat (at least as far as Seattleites are concerned).  Blech!  I didn’t have the spirit to venture into the garden half the time because so many plants, clematis included, were suffering–in spite of irrigation (as much as I could afford, anyway).

Even so, I managed to take a few photos in my hot and arid Pacific Northwest garden (sounds like an oxymoron!).  The standouts in July turned out to be the heat-loving Clematis texensis clan, including the first flowers from my first-to-bloom C. texensis species (see photo).  The tulip-shaped blossoms in the species range from scarlet to dark pink, with white, red, or yellow coloring on the inside of the petals.  Blooming above C. texensis in this photo are the light blue bells of another species, C. crispa.

In the late 1800s European hybridizers loved the red color and tulip shapes of the blossoms of C. texensis and used it extensively in their hybridizing programs.  More than one clematis expert has told me that almost all red and dark-pink clematis are descended from C. texensis!

Also blooming in my garden in July were two texensis hybrids :  C. Ville de Lyon climbing up a Decaisnea tree (also called Dead Man’s Fingers for it’s steely blue finger-like seed pods) and C. Catherine Clanwilliam.


Clematis Ville de Lyon, a C. texensis progeny originally hybridized in France in the late 1800s.



Clematis Catherine Clanwilliam, another child of C. texensis, this one hybridized more recently by British hybridizer, Barry Fretwell.


Clematis of the Month for June: Clematis Etoile Violette

June Clematis of the Month:   C. Etoile Violette

June Clematis of the Month:
C. Etoile Violette

Seattle’s unusually long warm spring propelled all my clematis, as well as most of my other garden plants, into bloom a full month early this year–starting in March and continuing through April and May.  And then June was no different!  The usual stars in my June garden are early large-flowered clematis like C. Will Baron, C. Fair Rosamond, and C. Guernsey Cream.   But this year they had all put on their show in May and were devoid of blooms in June.

Fortunately, though, there was no dearth of clematis in my June garden–the July bloomers came to the rescue!  An excellent case in point is Clematis of the Month for June, C. Etoile Violette.  This 10-year-old plant, which gracefully drapes itself over and through a dying Italian plum tree in the middle of my garden, had more blooms this year than ever before.  I guesstimated over 1,000 blooms all at one time in mid-June.  Check out the photos below, taken on June 13, of C. Etoile Violette from all sides.

C. Etiole Violette, south side

C. Etiole Violette, South Side

C. Etoile Violette, west side

C. Etoile Violette, West Side

C. Etoile Violette           East Side

C. Etoile Violette, East Side

C. Etoile Violette         North Side

C. Etoile Violette,  North Side

Silver Star Vinery Garden Opens

Just a Small Part of the Silver Star Vinery Display Gardens

Just a Small Part of the Silver Star Vinery Display Gardens

Silver Star Vinery Display Gardens will be open TWO weekends this year.  The first is THIS COMING WEEKEND (June 13 and 14)!  Then again on July 11 and 12.  Debbie’s display gardens are pure Clemaniac Heaven.  If you live in the Pacific Northwest or have a chance to visit this part of the world, you need to see this garden!  Plus Debbie will be selling many varieties of her big fat healthy plants.

I took the photos included here at Debbie’s Garden Opens in 2013 and 2014.  I have the honor of being a display garden guide/question answerer again this year on July 11–Debbie and other helpers will be on hand to answer questions and sell plants during all four garden open days.

Silver Star Vinery is located about 40 minutes drive from I-5 up into the foothills of the Cascades–turn off I-5 in  Battleground, Washington (just north of Vancouver).  You can get directions by contacting Silver Star Vinery.

Clematis Chalcedony

Clematis Chalcedony

June  13-14th

9-5 pm
Pre-Open Garden & Clematis Sale
Lots of lush clematis for sale
Call or email for directions.
31805 NE Clearwater Drive
Yacolt, WA 98675
Just a Small Part of the Silver Star Vinery Display Garden

Just a Small Part of the Silver Star Vinery Display Garden


July 11 & 12th
9-5 pm
Hope you can come enjoy the 3rd Annual Open Garden. See hundreds of clematis in bloom in my garden ‘Blessings’. Refreshments available.   Clematis for sale.
Silver Star Vinery
31805 NE Clearwater Drive
Yacolt, WA. 98675
Signs will start in Battle Ground, Wa
Thank you for your support of my little nursery.  Each and every order is appreciated.  Debbie
And another!

And another!

Clematis Fairy Dust

Clematis Fairy Dust

Clematis Yukikomachi with a blue integrifolia at its feet

Clematis Yukikomachi with a blue integrifolia at its feet

Clematis of the Month for May 2015

May’s Winner

May Winner--Clematis Cezanne adorning an oversized windowbox.

May Winner–Clematis CEZANNE adorning an oversized windowbox.

Choosing just one May winner this year was no easy task because many lovely clematis gracefully embellished my garden throughout the month.  After much consideration, the clematis I chose to take the prize is Clematis CEZANNE, with it’s big cluster of blue(ish) satiny flowers, draped over the edge of my windowbox.  This clematis, bred by clematis hybridizer Raymond Evison as a Patio Clematis, has a smaller root system than most clematis, making it perfect for a pot or, in my case, a large windowbox.  Patio Clematis bloom in several flushes throughout the summer, especially when deadheaded or cut back after each flush dies down.  Pruning is easy–just cut them back hard in late winter (even late fall in milder climates like Seattle).

May’s Runners Up

The runners up in May are no slouches.  Check them out!

The delectable double blossoms of Clematis Josephine

The delectable double blossoms of Clematis JOSEPHINE.

The glamorous Clematis Etiole de Malicorne

The glamorous Clematis Etiole de Malicorne

Already the first blooms of Clematis Etiole Violette, which normally blooms for me late June to early August!

Already the first blooms of Clematis Etoile Violette, which normally blooms for me late June to early August!

Clematis Fair Rosamond gracing a doorway.

Clematis Fair Rosamond gracing a doorway, this year with very strong pink bars, making it appear to favor Clematis Nellie Moser.

Clematis recta purpurea, cascading down from its support and about to open its prolific, though small, and fragrant flowers.

Clematis recta Purpurea, cascading down from its support and about to open its prolific and fragrant small flowers.

Clematis Proteus

Clematis Proteus

Clematis Louise Rowe

Clematis Louise Rowe

Clematis Tartu made a comely comeback after wilting last year!

Clematis Tartu made a comely comeback after wilting last year!

Clematis Omoshiro

A slightly tattered Clematis Omoshiro (oh, those pesky slugs!).

Clematis Utopia, which is similar to Omoshiro above and another lovely clematis I covet, Clematis Fond Memories (no photo here)

Clematis Utopia, similar to Omoshiro above and to another lovely clematis I covet, Clematis Fond Memories (below)

Clematis Fond Memories

Clematis Fond Memories (photo taken by me at the Rogerson Clematis Collection in Lake Oswego, Oregon).  Sadly, this one does not yet grace my own garden.

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