Armchair Gardening: Checking out the Mail Order Nurseries for Clematis

Early crocus, daffodils, and tulips are tentatively poking their heads up out of the soil to test the waters (so to speak).  My witchhazel is blooming.  The fragrance of the Sarcococca knocks my socks off every time I go in or out the door.  The Northwest Flower & Garden Show is next month.  The weather has been unseasonably warm here in Seattle (though a bit drippy).  So, of course, I have an early form of spring fever!  I really should get outside and finish pruning my Group 3 clematis (the ones that bloom in July and August on new wood), but instead, I stayed inside and drooled over the offerings from my three favorite online mail-order sources for clematis:  Silver Star Vinery, Joy Creek Nursery, and Brushwood Nursery.

Three of My Favorite Clematis

Before I get started, though, I will pause to recommend, both to beginners and to old hands a like, three of my personal favorite clematis, all which are available at all three mail-order nurseries.

 Clematis 'Gipsy Queen'

Clematis ‘Gipsy Queen’

Clematis ‘Gipsy Queen’

This clematis has sumptuous and velvety deep dark purple flowers with rich red overtones on opening, then ages to a lighter reddish purple.  It always stops me in my tracks whenever I see it in bloom (even if I just saw it a minute ago!).  This large clematis (up to 12 or 14 feet) is always recognizable to me, even from a distance, for its size, its lush purple color, and the spacy-ness of its flowers.  Its tepals spread out gracefully, leaving space between them, especially at the base, where the tepals narrow near the center of the flower like the base of a spoon, adding a special charm.  C. ‘Gipsy Queen’, a sun lover, is easy to grow and comes on strong (at least for me) in late July and August when so many of my other clematis are beginning to wind down.

C. 'Guernsey Cream'

C. ‘Guernsey Cream’

Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’

C. ‘Guernsey Cream’ is usually the first large-flowered clematis to bloom in my garden in spring, sometimes as early as mid-May.  I am always so happy to see it’s rich creamy blossoms, sometimes with green overtones.  It blooms luxuriantly for several weeks before resting for a time.  If I cut it back a bit after blooming, I may get a few more blooms in the autumn.  Several clematarian friends advise me to boldly cut it back really hard to get many more blooms in the second flush.  I’ll try,  really, I will.

Clematis Betty Corning

Clematis Betty Corning

Clematis ‘Betty Corning’

The third of my favorites is the delightful and dainty C. ‘Betty Corning’, with its open bell-shape and soft mauvey-blue color, which shows well when paired with many other clematis or with roses.  It blooms its little heart out in July and August.  The pièce de résistance of this clematis, though, is its lovely light fragrance that wafts around the garden on a warm summer day.  It’s another one that I just can’t be without!

Three More Recommendations from Each Nursery

Brushwood Nursery

As I perused offerings from this nursery, which has all kinds of vines, not just clematis, I chose three excellent clematis to recommend to you that I grow myself.

FairRosamondClematis ‘Fair Rosamond’

A beautiful and easy-care early-blooming white clematis with a contrasting dark-red boss (which is all those reproductive parts clustered together in the middle of the flower).  This 7-9′ vine would pair nicely with a dark-leaved small tree like Forest Pansy Redbud.  It blooms in June and has a very light fragrance of violets.

C. 'Etoile de Malicorne'

C. ‘Etoile de Malicorne’

Clematis Etoile de Malicorne

This is a two-tone large-flowered spring bloomer that blends well with dark blues, dark pinks, purples, and whites.  I grow it to great effect with C. ‘Ville de Lyon’, an intensely pink clematis with rounded tepals (see a photo of this clematis under Silver Star Vinery below)–though their bloom times just barely overlap.  This tall plant, growing to 9-12′, blooms in May/June and pushes out a few blossoms again in the autumn, if you’re lucky.

C. florida 'Sieboldii'

C. florida ‘Sieboldii’

Clematis florida ‘Sieboldii’

A real stunner, C. florida ‘Sieboldii’  blooms in July and August and looks good with just about anything!  It bloomed so well for me in the back garden that I had to have one for the front garden, too.  It has a reputation for being a bid persnickety.  Some years it blooms beautifully, then the next has only a few flowers.  But in this case, even one flower is worthwhile.

Click the links below to see which clematis from Brushwood I am thinking about ordering for myself:

Clematis ‘Vancouver Fragrant Star’, because it’s fragrant.

Clematis ‘Vanessa’, because I’ve met Vanessa and because it blooms in late summer and fall.

Clematis ‘Lady Betty Balfour’, because it also blooms in late summer and fall.

Joy Creek Nursery

Joy Creek Nursery offers many kinds of plants, but fortunately for me clematis are one of their specialties.  Here are three they offer that I enjoy having in my garden.

C. 'Asao'

C. ‘Asao’

Clematis ‘Asao’

C. Asao is a Japanese hybrid that blooms in May and June.  The flowers are pink, gradually morphing to nearly white at the base of the tepals, nicely setting off the yellow center.   This clematis often has just a few extra tepals–not enough to call it double, but enough to give the flowers a ruffly look.

Clematis Alba Plena

Clematis Alba Plena

C. ‘Alba Plena’

This unusual and gorgeous clematis is in Pruning Group C, which means it is easy to prune (just cut it back hard in winter or early spring) and that it blooms on new wood in July and August.  It’s unusual greenish-white blossoms have a large boss in the center.  Sometimes this plant can be a bit finicky to establish, but the effort certainly pays off!


Clematis 'Pauline'

Clematis ‘Pauline’

C. ‘Pauline’

C. ‘Pauline’ is a spring bloomer with sweet little nodding bells and delicate leaves.  I love how the dark purple color stands out against the greenery.  Being an alpina type of clematis, this one doesn’t need pruning every year, though after a few years it may develop a ratty look and need a rejuvenation.  It enjoys partial shade–the dappled shade of a deciduous tree suits it perfectly.

Three of the clematis that caught my eye at Joy Creek Nursery are:

Clematis ‘Candida’, because I loved it in my Boston garden–it’s flowers are so large and lovely (sorry, no photo at Joy Creek, but you can see one here.)

Clematis ‘Haizawa’, because it’s adorable — and I saw a robust specimen last summer in a Seattle garden.

Clematis ‘Obotozukiyo’, because it is so delicately pretty.

Silver Star Vinery

C. Star of India

C. Star of India


The blossoms of C. ‘Star of India’ are a rich purple with a stand-out red stripe in the center.  The fat tepals overlap, making for a rounded form.  This beauty sports its blossoms in July and August on 9-12 foot vines.  Because it’s a summer bloomer and blooms on new wood, it’s easy to prune (cut it back hard).  Great for any garden with full sun.


C. Ville de Lyon

C. Ville de Lyon

Another beauty, C. ‘Ville de Lyon’ is intensely pink with the outer rim of each tepal even darker than the inside.  Once you’ve seen this one in bloom, you will always recognize it.  It’s a tall clematis, often growing to 15 feet.  Because it’s a heat lover, be sure to plant it in a hot sunny spot (keeping it well-watered, of course).

C. Romantika

C. Romantika

A really dark rich color that stands out when placed against a light background such as Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesons Gold.’  Blooming in summer with numerous small flowers, it always catches the eye of visitors to my garden.  Easy care, just needing a hard prune in winter.



The clematis below are calling my name from Silver Star Vinery.  There may be more than one clematis per page, so you might have to scroll down to find the clematis I’m interested in:

Clematis ‘Arabella’, because I’ve admired it in so many gardens

Clematis ‘Barbara Harrington’, because I’ve admired it in the Silver Star Vinery display garden.

Clematis ‘Kasagai’, because I never heard of it and there’s no picture.  Tantalizing.

I hope all this eye candy will encourage you to buy a new clematis or two!

March Clematis of the Month

None of my clematis earned Clematis of the Month for either January or February, and almost not for March either.  But one of the three clematis I ordered from Brushwood Nursery arrived in late March — IN BLOOM!  And lovely blooms they are, too.

Clematis Sugar Sweet -- Blue

Clematis Sugar Sweet — Blue

Clematis of the Month — March:
Clematis Sugar Sweet Blue

This lovely clematis is a new introduction from Ton Hannink of The Netherlands.  He’s a clematis friend whom I know through the International Clematis Society.  This clematis and it’s sister Clematis Sugar Sweet Lilac are both strongly fragrant.  Even my little one with just two early blooms flaunted its perfume!  Because the vines will grow only 6′ – 9′, mine will look  great in a pot on the deck, where I can enjoy the wafting fragrance.  Another plus — they are pruning group c, which means pruning is a cinch — just whack ’em back to 1′ – 3′ sometime between late fall and early spring (probably wait til early spring in colder climates).  You can get one for yourself, just click here.

I actually ordered three clematis from Brushwood this year.  The other two are Clematis Etoile Rose and Clematis Mrs Robert Brydon.  The three pots are sitting together in the photo above, so some of the leaves are belong to the other two clematis.

Clematis Etoile Rose versus Clematis Duchess of Albany

C. Etoile Rose is a texensis hybrid.  C. texensis is a species clematis that grows on riverbanks in Texas and has small red urn-shaped blooms.  Click here for more information on C. texensis.  Since the late 1800s hybridizers have been using this species to bring red into the clematis color palette.  In fact, almost every red or dark pink summer-blooming clematis has C. texensis in its background.  In addition to C. Etoile Rose, C. texensis hybrids include C. Duchess of Albany, C. Princess Diana, C. Ville de Leon, C. Sir Trevor Lawrence, and many others.  I thought I already had C. Etoile Rose, but recently realized that what I really have is C. Duchess of Albany.  Both have pink tulip-shaped blossoms, but those on C. Etoile Rose are downward-facing, while the flowers of C. Duchess of Albany are upward-facing.  Mine were definitely upward-facing, so, of course, I had to purchase a C. Etoile Rose as soon as possible.

Downward-Facing Blooms of C. Etoile Rose

Downward-Facing Blooms of C. Etoile Rose

The Upward-Facing Blooms of C. Duchess of Albany

The Upward-Facing Blooms of C. Duchess of Albany
























clematis_mrs_robert_brydonClematis Mrs Robert Brydon

I had heard of C. Mrs Robert Brydon but had never seen it in person until I saw it in a vase on the table at a garden luncheon.  At first I thought the small flowers might be from some kind of Thalictrum, aka meadow rue, which is not surprising since Thalictrum and Clematis are kissing cousins.  I finally realized that in spite of it’s small size it just had to be a clematis!  I was right.  This one is not a climber — it prefers instead to lounge about on whatever is convenient.  Can’t wait to see it blooming in the garden — hmm, what shall I provide for it to lounge upon?


December’s Clematis of the Month

Lovely little 100-year-old Nippon clematis vase found on Ebay.

Lovely little 100-year-old Nippon clematis vase found on Ebay.

No one will be surprised to learn that no clematis bloomed in my garden in December. None, nada, nichts.  In fact, only a very few had any green leaves. Undaunted, I routed around on Ebay to find my December Clematis of the month — the beautiful lavender clematis on the lovely little Nippon vase on the left!

Unfortunately, I don’t know what clematis is meant to be represented.  If it is based on a real clematis, it would have to be one that was available in Japan in the early 1900s.  It was probably painted from the imagination of the artist, since the center is not quite right for clematis.

The 2012 journal of the International Clematis Society, Clematis International 2012, had a interesting article by Ken Woolfenden about all the wonderful clematis memorabilia he and his wife Fiona have collected.  Over the years, I too have collected several pieces, mostly small plates with hand-painted clematis on them — see photos below.

Garden Clematis

Can you tell I’m suffering from clematis deprivation?  Sigh.  In a few brief forays out into the garden over the past few days, I’ve seen very small vegetative buds on some of my spring blooming clematis.  I had to look really close to see them, but they are definitely there!  No buds on my winter bloomers, though (C. napaulensis and C. cirrhosa).

Brushwood Nursery is having a 15% off sale this week, so I caved and ordered three more clematis (which I need like a hole in the head).  I must not buy any more clematis.  I must not buy any more clematis.  I must not buy any more clematis.  Hmmm, maybe I should plant up some of the clematis seeds I have in a jar in the fridge.

A Few Clematis Plates

Clematis Plate - Pink

Clematis Plate - White





Three Favorite Clems

Clematis Betty Corning

Clematis Betty Corning

Cold damp autumn days run me indoors, giving me time to work on organizing clematis photos, peruse nursery offerings, and consider which clematis zing me the most. Many, many clematis have captured me over the years, but I would like to present here three of my all-time favorites. I simply could not be without any one of them.

Clematis Betty Corning

A Different Plant of C. Betty Corning, showing variability in color

A Different Plant of C. Betty Corning, showing variability in color

As seen in the photos above and to the right, Clematis Betty Corning, with it’s lovely bluish-mauve graceful bells and upturning tips, is a delightful sight to behold. Add a delicious scent and a long prolific blooming period and you’ve got a winner, at least in my book. This clematis was found as a chance seedling growing in an Albany, New York, garden by Betty Corning in the 1920s. She recognized the value of this great plant and got it into the hands of someone who propagated it and got it into commerce. Lucky for us, it’s still widely available. Everyone should have one of these in the garden! Available in the US from the following excellent mail-order nurseries: Silver Star Vinery, Joy Creek Nursery, and Brushwood Nursery. Also frequently sold at local nurseries.

Clematis Gipsy Queen

Clematis Gipsy Queen

A Cascade of Clematis Gipsy Queen

A Cascade of Clematis Gipsy Queen

Clematis Gipsy Queen

The dark dusky blossoms of Clematis Gipsy Queen arrive for me in late summer, when many others are winding down. This clematis shoots up long and tall (12 feet or more) in just one season. It pairs beautifully with roses, other clematis, and trees, but it also looks great on its own. The tepals separate from each other leaving an open gappy look that appeals to me. Clematis Gipsy Queen, hybridized from the famous Clematis Jackmanii in 1877, has certainly stood the test time.  I just wouldn’t want to be without this one!  Available in the US from Joy Creek Nursery.   

Dainty Clematis Viorna

Dainty Clematis Viorna

Clematis Viorna

Clematis viorna is a lovely little thing. Mine blooms from June through September and is always a big hit with visitors to the garden who have never seen a clematis with small bell flowers before. The hummingbirds love it, too!  Clematis viorna can climb trees, drape trellises, and combine beautifully with a variety of plants. For example, I enjoy this one paired with beauty berry as the berries and the flowers have a similar color palette, but it looks great with a dark pink clematis like Clematis Ville de Leon, too. Clematis viorna is a native species of the southeastern United States.  Available in the US from Brushwood Nursery.

Clematis viorna

Clematis viorna



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

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