February Bloomer: Clematis cirrhosa var purpurascens Freckles

Winter-Blooming Clematis Freckles

Winter-Blooming Clematis Freckles

Yes, I truly do have a clematis actually blooming in Seattle in February! Clematis cirrhosa var purpurascens ‘Freckles’ (that’s its full name–really, it is!) is presently gracing my garden with blooms, well, one anyway.  The blossom I gleefully discovered two days ago was found only because I leaned half over the deck checking out my vines hoping against hope for a bloom. Then–aHA–I saw one! And almost killed myself in my excitement by leaning just a tad too far over the deck rail before I came to my senses. Alas, today when I wanted to photograph it for posterity, it had already shriveled.  Nearby buddies were still only small white buds. I certainly didn’t want to disappoint readers, especially Ingrid in Sweden, who were hankering to see a clematis actually blooming now in a garden real time. So, this morning I hunted around and right on the deck in easy reach of the camera, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a lovely single bloom. 

The fresh-looking crisp  foliage of this clematis is dainty, apple-green, and deeply divided, almost fernlike.  Even when it’s not blooming it adds welcome green accents to the winter garden. 

Cirrhosa Freckles in July

Cirrhosa Freckles in July

The down-side is that this clematis, and all its Clematis cirrhosa cousins, are tender, being natives of the Mediterranean, from southern Spain and northern Africa to Syria.  Luckily, here in Seattle, we can grow them easily.   This particular clematis was raised from seed collected on Mallorca (an island in the Mediterranean Sea) by Allen Peterson, curator of the Chelsea Physic Garden in the 1980s.  Well-known clematis nurseryman, Raymond Evison, received seeds from Peterson and introduced one of the resulting seedlings as Freckles in honor the freckled face of one of his daughters.

A sun-loving vine that can grow 12 – 15′, Clematis Freckles is expected to bloom betweeen October and February.  My particular plant is confused–or maybe just a rebel.  This year it bloomed with strong red freckles in July with my burgundy Barberry ‘Helmut’s Pillar’ and the chartreuse flowers of Bells of Ireland — then again now in very late February with a pallid flower, whose wan look is due I presume to the short gray days we’ve had, which lacked enough sun to bring out strong color.

If you have one, let us know how yours behaves (or misbehaves).

News Flash: Clematis Serious Black FOUND!

Sundquist Nursery Label for Clematis Serious Black

Sundquist Nursery Label for Clematis Serious Black

Update! If you didn’t get a chance to get to the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in February to pick up your own Clematis Serious Black, all is not lost! Nils Sundquist of Sundquist Nursery — the nursery that was selling Clematis Serious Black at the Show — will also be selling this plant at his Garden Opens on the Kitsap Penninsula. See Nis’ comment below!

While wandering around the Northwest Flower & Garden Show today, enjoying the sites and feeding my need for spring, I asked each of the plant vendors I ran up on whether they carried clematis.  Several were selling Clematis armandii and one even had a couple of New Zealand clematis.  But when I stopped by Sundquist Nursery late in the day, I hit PAYDIRT!   Sundquist Nursery is selling bare-root plants of — drum roll, please — Clematis recta ‘Lime Close’, aka Clematis Serious Black!   

Oh, those lovely little roots!

Oh, those lovely little roots!

To learn more about this very interesting non-climbing clematis that sports  black (well, almost black) leaves, see my earlier post on the subject.  Clematis Serious Black was recently featured in Fine Gardening magazine, but the source mentioned for the plant (the Northwest Perennial Alliance) carries only seed.  As luck would have it, if you can get  yourself (or send a friend) to the Flower Show between now and Sunday (2/24) at the Convention Center in downtown Seattle, you too can have a bare-root plant of Clematis Serious Black of your very own (I  already bought mine!).  $12!!!  The box I found mine in seemed to have 15 or 20 more, so hurry on down!

Come See Me at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show

A Gold-Winner at the 2012 Northwest Flower & Garden Show

A Gold-Winner at the 2012 Northwest Flower & Garden Show

Did you know that the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, which opened Wednesday, 2/20,  in downtown Seattle at the Convention Center and runs through Sunday, 2/24, is the second largest Flower Show in the US (second only to Philadelphia)?  And it’s the third largest in the world (the Chelsea Flower Show in England, of course, being the biggest of all)!  So get on  down to the Convention Center and get your spring fever on!  I sure will.

This year I will be volunteering at the show for PlantAmnesty on Wednesday, for the Master Gardeners on Thursday, and then on Friday — taDAAA — I will be a first-time speaker at the Flower Show on the topic of (big surprise here) CLEMATIS!  Come by and hear me shed light on the Care and Pruning of Clematis, the Queen of Climbers. 

Friday, February 22, 7pm in the Hood Room at the Show. 

If you have an interest in hearing me speak about clematis but can’t make it on Friday, I will be speaking again on Saturday, March 2nd, at 11am at Sky Nursery — for PlantAmnesty’s fourth annual Prune-a-Thon.

Guess what!  I found a clematis blooming in my garden this morning!  I’ll tell  you about it very soon.

Ordering Clematis: Brushwood Nursery

Now let’s turn to the third, but most definitely not the least, of my three favorite mail-order nurseries for clematis, Brushwood Nursery.  Brushwood is all about vines–climbing roses, passion flowers, trumpet vines, honeysuckles, and loads of — you got it — CLEMATIS!

Clematis viorna from Brushwood
Clematis viorna from Brushwood

Dan Long, proprietor of Brushwood Nursery and a member of the International Clematis Society, has connections throughout the world that allow him to offer a wide variety of large-flowered, small-flowered, and non-vining clematis. He offers over 350 varieties, though many are already unavailable until he replenishes his stock.  But many others are currently on sale!!   In my experience, plants ordered from Brushwood take off and grow well. Once of my personal favorites from Brushwood is my huge species clematis, Clematis viorna (huge as in big plant — flowers are only about an inch long).  Its blooms are dainty though sturdy little bells with pert tips that recurve like a jester’s belled slippers. I planted this lavendar and white clematis to grow through a Calicarpa (Beauty Berry).  It starts blooming in July and continues to bloom until the beauty berry produces its delicate and lovely lavendar berries.  The two look wonderful together.  Argh!  I haven’t taken an aceptable photo of the pairing yet. 

Two of the many beautiful and unusual clematis Dan offers include Clematis Crystal Fountain (also known as Clematis Fairy Blue’), which is a lovely double, and Clematis Rebecca, one of the most beautiful of red clematis.  Photos below.

Clematis Crystal Fountain (aka Fairy Blue)

Clematis Crystal Fountain (aka Fairy Blue)

 

Clematis Rebecca

Clematis Rebecca

Clematis Serious Black (aka Clematis recta Lime Close)

Clematis recta Serious Black

Clematis recta Serious Black

The recent March/April 2013 issue of Fine Gardening magazine has a small article on page 16 about Clematis Serious Black (also known as Clematis recta Lime Close), in which the Northwest Perennial Alliance (NPA) is erroneousely identified as a source. As NPA is getting requests for the clematis, they asked me if I knew of a source. Update: Turns out that NPA is in fact a source — for the SEED of Clematis Serious Black. Please see comment from Fine Garding below for details about how to obtain the seed. And remember, a seedling does not necessarily look like its parent.

This non-climbing clematis throws 4-6′ vines that either ramble through the garden or require support. Its beauty is in its very dark purple (nearly black) leaves that show off the small starry white summer flowers. After checking my own Clematis sources, I found that Clematis Serious Black does not seem to be readily available in the US.  According to Clematis on the Web (a wonderful site for information about thousands of clematis), “The stems and leaves are purple and fade only very slowly. The leaves are a darker colour than those of recta ‘Purpurea’. The original plant was acquired as recta ‘Purpurea’ and grown by Miss C Christie-Miller at ‘Lime Close’, her garden in Oxfordshire, UK.”

Clematis recta 'Purpurea' in Bloom

Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’ in Bloom

Apparently, Clematis Serious Black has not made it across the pond in enough numbers yet for selling. But Clematis recta ‘Purpurea” is available–-I have it myself and love it. While its leaves are not quite as dark as Serious Black, Purpurea has strikingly rich dark purple leaves in spring and early summer, then blooms with white starry fragrant flowers. It really is a lovely plant and might just tide us over until Serious Black makes the scene in this part of the world.

Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’ is currently available at Joy Creek Nursery in Oregon, where you can mail order it. It is also available at T&L Nursery, a wholesale nursery in Redmond, Washington.

Trust me — as soon as I can find one, Clematis Serious Black will grace my garden!

NEXT POST: Brushwood Nursery, the last but not least of my three favorite mail-order nurseries for clematis.

Ordering Clematis: Joy Creek Nursery

A Gloomy February Day in Seattle

A Gloomy February Day in Seattle

Weather here in Seattle has continued gray and drab, though day-length is noticably getting longer.  Take a look at the photo I just took from the back deck!   Gloom and doom.  Days like this are best spent armchair gardening (reading gardening books and seed catalogues) or computer gardening (surfing the net for garden ideas or plants to buy).

Personally, I opted to drool over my favorite online mail-order nurseries, especially those that carry oodles of clematis.  I zeroed in on Joy Creek Nursery

Maurice Horn, co-owner of Joy Creek Nursery, is very knowledgable about clematis.  I once had the privilege of hearing him give a fascinating talk about the history of how clematis came into the horticultural world from the wild, including stories of some of the characters who hunted plants and brought them to Europe, and how some of the first hybrids, like Clematis Jackmanii, came into being.  As a result of strong connections to current Japanese clematis hybridizers, Maurice has access to many unusual and beautiful clematis, including little beauties with small bell-shaped flowers.

Joy Creek Nursery

Joy Creek Nursery

One HUGE advantage of Joy Creek Nursery over some of the other mail-order nurseries is that one can actually go there in person as well as order online or via telephone.  The nursery, which  is open seven days a week from March through October, sells hordes of plants and has truly fabulous display gardens where visitors can see how plants grow and combine with each other, including many clematis.  Joy Creek also runs a Sunday lecture series throughout the summer.  They are located in Scapoose, Oregon, on the Columbia River north of Portland. (Photo from Joy Creek Nursery.)

But back to my mail ordering.  The many plants I’ve gotten from Joy Creek over the years, whether mail-ordered or purchased in person, have always grown healthy, strong, and beautiful.  Below are photos of two, Clematis Bijou (a ground cover clematis from British hybridizer Raymond Evison) and Clematis Shizuki (one of the Japanese hybrids with a blue-violet bell crisply outlined in white that blooms all summer in a pot on my deck).   This year, I ordered two more clematis from Joy Creek Nursery–Clematis Kahori no Kimi and Clematis Princess Red.  Both have flowers in the form of pinkish-red nodding bells, and Kahori no Kimi is said to have the additional enhancement of a citris scent.  I notice Princess Red no longer shows up on their website.  Yikes!  I hope they didn’t run out before they put my order through! 

Clematis Shizuki

Clematis Shizuki

Clematis Bijou, a ground-cover clematis

Clematis Bijou, a ground-cover clematis

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