WOW! Species Clematis otophora Blooming in My Garden!

In bud a couple of weeks ago

Last spring I purchased a healthy Clematis otophora, which is said to sport yellow bells,  and planted it to grow on an Acer griseum (paperbark maple).  I know very little about this plant, but it grew  and grew.  Even so, I never expected it to bloom in the first year (first six months, really).  Just a couple of weeks ago I was thrilled to see buds (see photo), but I wasn’t sure whether they’d have time open before frost.  

Then on Saturday I found blooms — the most lovely yellow bells!  See photo below.  There seems to be very little information about this rare clematis from the mountains of Sichuan in China.  I am hoping against hope that it is hardy here in the Pacific Northwest because it looks so happy, I simply can’t bear to move it. 

Beautiful Yellow Bells

Clematis otophora was sold to me by Far Reaches Farm in Port Townsend, Washington.  We here in the Northwest are fortunate to have this nursery because the enthusiastic proprieters, Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken, are plant nerds extraordinaire and thoughtful plant explorers.   In fact, they are on a plant exploration right now, in China, I believe.  You can visit Far Reaches Farm online at: .  They offer many plants via mail order and have special open days for visiting the nursery.  They specialize in unusual plants, including a few rare clematis.  For example, this August when I visited the nursery in person, I was able to buy two additional unusual clematis, Clematis tibetana (the black form) and Clematis repens.  These two plants are young yet and still in pots — I may get them in the ground next spring; if not, then next fall.  If you happen know anything more about any of my three new unusual clematis (Clematis otophora, Clematis repens, or Clematis tibetana (black form)), please, please let me know!!!

See below for photos of Clematis tibetana (black form) and Clematis repens.


Dangling Bells of Clematis repens

Dangling Bells of Clematis repens


The Dusky Bells of the Black Tibetana

The Dusky Bells of the Black Tibetana

Planting a Clematis

Sunny SKy

Beautiful Blue Sunny Sky

Do you have a clematis to plant this fall?  If not, you still have time to scour the nurseries for a likely specimen (see my recent post on how to choose a nursery clematis in the fall). 

Yesterday, I planted a nursery plant myself, so let me show you how I did it.   Sometime last summer, I purchased Clematis Sunny Sky (see photo right) from a nursery that had all its clematis out in full sun, which is very hard on clematis still in pots.  This one looked really cooked,  but I used my smart phone to look it up on Clematis on the Web.   I found that it is a vigorous and floriferous clematis that will grow to about 4 – 6 feet tall  and needs full sun, so of course I took it home.   Below are the steps I followed to plant it.

1.  Find a suitable spot to plant the clematis.  I walked around my garden and found a sunny spot where I thought this clematis could add some pizazz near a yellow rose (Rosa ‘Jude the Obscure’)–they should make a charming pairing.

2.  Soak the clematis.  The easiest way is to fill a bucket with water and plunk the clematis in — pot and all — while you dig the hole. 

3.  Dig a large hole. Make the hole as big as you can–some say at least 2′ x 2′, but that’s a honking big hole that we can’t always fit into our gardens.  But do try to make the hole at least twice as deep and twice as wide as the pot.  See my hole to the right–it’s about 18″ deep and 15″ wide. 

4.  Fill hole with water and let drain out.  This serves two purposes:  it lets you know how fast the area drains and it hydrates the soil down deep.   If the water drains so fast you can’t even fill the hole or if it drains out just in a few minutes, the drainage is probably too fast for most clematis.  If it takes more than two or three hours to drain, it’s probably too slow.   When I dug this hole, the bottom 12 inches of soil were still fairly dry from our summer drought, so I filled it twice.  The water drained in about 20 minutes both times.

5.  Plant the Clematis.  First, I put 2″ of manure (usually fresh or composted steer manure) in the bottom of the hole (a jolt of food for the clematis two or three years down the road).  I covered that with about 2″ of native soil mixed with compost.  Before removing a clematis from its pot, first remove any bamboo or stick stapled to the side of the pot.  Otherwise, getting the plant out of the pot can be a struggle.   Set the plant in the hole so that the crown is level with or just below the soil level.  If the plant is too low, take it out and add more soil to the hole.  If it’s too high, either remove some soil from the hole or loosen the roots on the bottom of the plant and remove some of that soil.  Once the plant is at the right height in the hole, fill in with a mixture of native soil and compost — I also like to ad a little alphalfa meal and bone meal.  Tamp down and water.

6.  Final Touches.  Cover the soil around the plant with at least 2″ of compost.  Cut the plant back to 6 – 12″ tall to encourage root growth over the winter.  I plan for C. ‘Sunny Sky’ to weave through the shrubs around it.  This particular clematis does not climb–rather it lounges about on whatever support it can find or it sprawls on the ground.  I inserted a small bamboo stick into the hole, to which I can tie the clematis to as it grows and, hopefully, guide it to the shrub in which I want it to lounge.  Once it reaches the shrub, it’s on its own. If yours is a climber that you want to ascend a structure, you must also put something in the hole to give it a leg up onto its new support.  The support structure should be in place when you plant, if at all possible.  Make sure that the support (such as a trellis, arbor, or fence) has skinny bits — no thicker than your little finger — for your climber to cling to.  If your support does not have anything thin enough, you can attach chicken wire, string, or some other thin thing to it.

I’ll post photos of C. ‘Sunny Sky’ when it blooms next summer.  Send me photos of yours, too!

Clematis Blooming in October

Did you know that our mild Pacific Northwest climate allows for at least one clematis to be blooming in every month of the year?  Here’s a taste of what I mean.  In my October garden, I have two late-blooming clematis at their peak of bloom, Sweet Autumn Clematis (C. terniflora) and C. ‘Madame Baron Veillard’.

Sweet Autumn Clematis in October

Sweet Autumn Clematis is a big plant (20-30 feet) with a multitude of small white wonderfully fragrant flowers.  In our climate this plant blooms in October, though in my Boston garden it bloomed for me in August and September. To be successful in the Pacific Northwest, this clematis needs to be sited in a warm spot.  That’s because the flowers require serious heat to set buds and shortening days to trigger them to open.  We don’t have any trouble providing the shortening days, but heat units can be a problem here.  Mine seems to love growing eight feet up a lattice onto a west-facing deck.

Clematis ‘Madame Baron Veillard’ is a lovely mauve flowered clematis that waits til September to even think about blooming in my garden.  It was named over 100 years ago for a French baroness who loved to garden. 

As you can see, it has a lovely  bloom that warms the heart just as the days seem to be getting shorter and gloomier.

Several other clematis are blooming in my garden now, including three that are especially showy.  The one on the right is Clematis ‘Sizaia Ptitsa’  — that’ll twist your tongue, huh?  A friend of mine just calls it Slice of Pizza, which is not too far off the Russian pronunciation.  This clematis has been blooming for over three months and is just beginning to show signs of winding down. 

Below is Clematis viorna, a species from the southeastern US with a sweet bell-shaped cream-and-lavendar bloom and wonderful seed heads.  It, too, has been blooming for months and is showing off here with the lavendar berries of a beauty berry.  Last, but definitely not least, is Clematis florida ‘Sieboldii’ (also below) – what a gorgeous flower!

C. viorna (species clematis)

Buying Clematis in Autumn

Autumn is a GREAT time to buy clematis!  Not only do many nurseries offer the last of their raggedy-looking but healthy clematis at great discounts, but also fall is an ideal time to plant clematis in the Pacific Northwest.  

Choosing a Clematis Variety

If you have a smart phone, the easiest way to pick out which available clematis variety you want is to google Clematis on the Web, a fabulous website with photos and detailed information on thousands of clematis.   Not only can you see what the flower will look like, but you can also find out when it blooms, how big it gets, how hardy it is, and much much more.  If you don’t have a smart phone, write down the names of some of the clematis available at the nursery and check them out on your home computer before buying (I know, I know, that means two trips to the nursery–how much of a hardship is that?).

Choosing a Specific Plant

Now that you know which variety you want, check to see if there are multiple pots of that variety.  If so, look carefully to see how many stems (or vines) there are at or near the base of the plant.  The more stems the better! A plant with multiple stems will generally be a much healthier plant over the long haul.  Check the two photos recently taken at a local nursery–the one at the top of the page has three stems; the one below only one.  Buy the multi-stemmed plant!

Upcoming Topics:  Planting tips; October-blooming clematis; harvesting seedheads–so check back!

Clematis in Seattle!


Hello, I’m Laura and I’m a clemaniac.  I love to blather on about all the varied blossom colors, flower shapes, bloom times, well, basically all aspects of the beautiful genus, clematis, The Queen of Climbers.  Every week or two I will post about what I’m doing with clematis in my Seattle garden, be it pruning, buying, planting, starting seeds, perusing online and hardcopy catalogues, studying, visiting clematis in other gardens (as well as my own), dealing with diseases, and whatever else I run into about clematis. 

 I have been growing clematis for over 20 years, first in my Boston garden where I left behind 50 clematis, and since 2005 in Seattle where I currently have 130 clematis, and counting.  I grow them everywhere—in trees and shrubs, scrambling over perennials, and on fences, trellises, and arbors.  I enjoy sharing my clematis knowledge with others and frequently present PowerPoint talks on clematis to garden clubs, nurseries, and other venues throughout Greater Seattle.  I am a member of the International Clematis Society, the British Clematis Society, and the Friends of the Rogerson Clematis Collection (in Portland, Oregon).  I was privileged to attend the 2010 and 2011 International Clematis Society Conferences in Portland and Belgium, respectively, and plan to go to the 2013 conference in Germany in June.  Doesn’t that sound like a clemaniac to you?

Hope you’ll stop by now and then and check out what I’m doing!

Here’s the lovely white Clematis Huldine showing off in my garden in July with Clematis Madame Julia Correvon as a charming backdrop.

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