Speaking at Sky Nursery, Sunday, May 5

Sky Nursery's New Greenhouse

Sky Nursery’s New Greenhouse

If  you live in Greater Seattle and  have questions about clematis  ( how to choose a clematis, how and when to prune one, how much light they need, etc., etc., etc.), please come hear me speak on The Care and Pruning of Clematis at Sky Nursery this coming Sunday.  I will demysify the pruning of clematis for you and show you the beauty you can add to your garden–with loads of  great photos of many unusual and beautiful clematis that bloom at all different times of year.  I will also be available in the nursery’s clematis sales area after the talk to answer questions.

Where:          Sky Nursery, 185th and Aurora (Highway 99),
                        just north of Seattle in Shoreline

When:           Sunday, May 5, 1pm – 2:30pm

Cost:           FREE!

Click here for more info.

I would love to see you there!

Clematis at the Arboretum Spring Plant Sale

florabundanceThe quintessential spring plant sale every year in Seattle is the Washington Park Arboretum’s Sale, and I was there last night for the opening day of this three-day event.   The sale has many vendors with interesting and unusual plants, and the Arboretum itself sells plants from its greenhouses.

And wouldn’t you know it!  T&L, a wholesale nursery specializing in groundcovers and clematis, was there!  Yikes!  I just finished getting all my plants, including clematis, in the ground.  What to do?  What to do?  Well, I took a deep breath and decided to severely limit myself to bringing home only two of the 30 or 40 varieties they had on offer.  Since I first saw it  with its 8-10″ two-toned pink blossoms at a garden tour in Portland, I’ve wanted Clematis Fireworks.   I also found Clematis Kiri Te Kanawa, a beautiful blue double hybridized by one of my favorite clematarians, Barry Fretwell.  Hmmm, now I have to decide where to plant these two June bloomers.  A few other plants also demanded that I take them home, and even my husband bought three plants himself (his taste runs to gunnera and other odd plants).

My eagle eye also spotted Clematis recta purpurea, I think somewhere in the vicinity of the Langley Gardens display, and Clematis recta ‘Lime Close’ (aka Serious Black) at Sundquist Nursery’s stand.   In earlier posts, I’ve described both of these purple-leaved clematis with fragrant white flowers.

The Arboretum Sale goes through tomorrow (Sunday, April 28), so if you’re in the Seattle area, head on over there. 

Oh, and then there’s the Master Gardener Plant Sale at the Center for Urban Horticulture next weekend!

Clematis Walk

First Entries in the 2013 Clematis Spreadsheet

First Entries in the 2013 Clematis Spreadsheet

Yesterday, the time had come for my first clematis walk of the season.  I grabbed my clipboard and headed outside to check out all the clematis on my five-page spreadsheet.  As I moseyed through the garden, I took a good hard look at each clematis—if it was doing ok, I put a check next to it in the column for the day.  When I saw no sign of life, I jotted down a question mark.  If any had shown signs of the dreaded clematis wilt, I would have written a W and quickly cut away all the damaged parts of the vine (phew—no such dastardly signs on this walk!).  If the clematis sported buds, I wrote in a B.  If it was in bloom, I counted the blooms (later in the season I often have to guestimate, especially when a plant has more than 100 blooms) and put in that number in the chart.  

Lessons from Clematis Walks

My clematis walks are leisurely and enjoyable, but they have also taught me many lessons about clematis.  For example, I’ve learned that some of the large-flowered May-June bloomers can actually be in bud for six-to-eight weeks before the first flower opens!  Talk about anticipation.  Given Seattle’s dank weather, I often find early signs of slug damage, prompting me to  use Sluggo pronto.  Wilt gets dealt with quickly.  I am able to direct the growth of the clems before they get too settled into their own sense of direction (usually up).  I have also learned when to expect blooms.  Because I have been keeping clematis spreadsheets for years, I can compare bloom times from year to year and try to anticipate when each clematis will bloom in the current year.

Clematis recta 'Purpurea'

Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’

On yesterday’s walk, I noted that three Clematis alpinas were blooming, especially Clematis ‘Blue Dancer,’ with 60 blossoms.  My New Zealand Clematis ‘Pixie’ had 20 creamy white blooms.  Though according to last year’s spreadsheet, my Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’ won’t bloom til mid-June, it’s already making a show in April with its deliciously dark purple leafy stems topped with fat juicy vegetative buds.  I have a similar hybrid, Clematis recta ‘Lime Close’ (aka ‘Serious Black’), which I purchased at the Flower Show in February (see earlier post for more info).   I can’t compare the two, though, because Clematis recta ‘Lime Close’  hasn’t broken dormancy yet–I purchased it bare-root and left it outside in the cold (in a pot) to fend for itself.   I expect to see new growth any time now.

Clematis 'Rebecca'

Clematis ‘Rebecca’

Clematis ‘Rebecca’, a new one that showed up on my doorstep this spring, surprised me with a beautiful flower already.  Because it arrived in only a four-inch pot, I repotted it into a larger pot, where it will live til fall when I will find it a more permanent home in the ground.

During my first clematis walk of the season, I found seventeen clematis in bud, five with blooms, and nine showing no signs of life (yet).  With all the rain we’ve been getting lately, several showed signs of slug damage.  I also noted that five of my clematis weren’t even on my spreadsheet, for Pete’s sake, a problem I quickly rectified.  So I now I know that I have 142 clematis (not counting seedlings), both in the ground and in pots. 

I wonder what I’ll learn from next week’s clematis walk.

004P.S.  Just had to show you my sweet little Italian plum tree, its crown spangled with blossoms and its trunk cloaked in clematis vines.

And the Winner Is . . .

Blue Dancer! 

Blue Dancer

Blue Dancer

Yes, the first of my Clematis alpinas to blossom this year is Clematis Blue Dancer, with its profusion of  long luscious light-blue petals.  Some of the runners-up may bloom tomorrow.   Like Opening Day at Fenway Park (don’t forget, I was a Bostonian for many a year), the first alpina marks the start of the clematis season for me.   Bring it on! 

Drip Irrigation 

As you probably know, clematis are by and large NOT drought tolerant plants.  Believe it or not, this can be a serious problem in the Seattle area.  “What?” you say.  “But Seattle is Rain City!”  If you don’t live around here, you may not realize that Seattle can be dry as a bone in July and August.  Last summer we had NO rain whatsover from mid-July through most of September.  Not a drop.  Very trying on clematis–as well as the person who has to water them.  Only a very few parts of the world have this dry summer, wet winter weather phenomena–the Pacific Northwest, Chili, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Mediterranean.  The up side is that we can easily grow many exotic specimens from these plant-rich parts of the world–Grevillea, Azara, Chilian Fire Tree, Euchryphia, Cistus, Hebe, Lavender, and Ceonothus, just to name a few. 

My garden is watered in summer by a soaker hose system that is adequate for most of my plants.  All the clematis, however, whine all summer long.  Several times during a typical dry spell, I am forced to go around the garden with the hose and stand at a each clematis for at least five minutes–very time consuming if you have 130 or 140 clematis!  To solve the problem, my friend and professional gardener Sean is helping me to install a drip system JUST for my clematis.  Oh, and for my pots and window boxes, too.  Then I can spend the dog days of summer sitting in the shade reading a novel and admiring all the blossoms!  Ahhhhh.

The Race is ON!

Clemats 'Pixie'

Clemats ‘Pixie’

My sweet little fragrant New Zealand Clematis ‘Pixie’ opened it’s first flower the other day, crying Seattle raindrop tears, and now sports several more blooms.  Pixie is the only clematis currently blooming in my garden (other than that cock-eyed out-of-sync Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ described in an earlier post). 

Clematis 'Markham's Pink'

Clematis ‘Markham’s Pink’

But which spring-blooming clematis will be next?  Four or five Clematis alpinas and Clematis macropetalas are budded up and ready to burst.  My treasured Clematis koreana seedling (see last post)  is in the running, too, with its little bud swelling a bit more every day.  And Clematis montana ‘Vera’, 40’ up a 90’ Port Orford Cedar, should be showing off any time now,  draping the tree with festoons of pink.

Clematis 'Cecile'

Clematis ‘Cecile’

Clematis 'Jacqueline du Pre'

Clematis ‘Jacqueline du Pre’

Clematis 'Pauline'

Clematis ‘Pauline’

Clematis 'Blue Dancer'

Clematis ‘Blue Dancer’

My First Ever Flower Bud on a Seedling!

Oh, the anticipation!

Oh, the anticipation!

A flower bud!  Yay-haw!

On one of Seattle’s recent lovely warm spring days I decided to take a peak at my clematis seedlings to see how they faired over the winter.  Although I keep all my seedlings outside year round, I protect them a bit from Seattle’s winter rains by tucking them under Adirondack chairs and glass tables.  When I pulled all the trays out into the open the other day, I was thrilled see my very first flower bud nodding in the sunshine!  And such a lovely thing it is, too, don’t you think?

My clematarian friends first encouraged me to plant clematis seeds in 2010, and I’ve planted more every year since.  Though many have sprouted, none had budded yet—until now.  This particular plant, which I personally caused to come into being, is from seed sent to me in 2010 by a friend in Sweden.    The mother clematis (mysteriously named Clematis koreana var fragrans H38) is a spring-blooming plant with fragrant nodding bells (click here to see photos).    Though not widely grown, H38 is important because it has been used in seed crossings to develop several fragrant clematis. 

A Treasury of Potential

A Treasury of Potential

Hmmm, I wonder which clematis I should cross mine with to try to achieve a brand new fragrant clematis hybrid.

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