Clematis atragenes Blooming!

Seattle has been drowning, drenching, and dripping for the past three months. Most days, staying reasonably dry while working in the garden has not been possible. Nevertheless, the garden is burgeoning, and the Clematis atragenes have begun to bloom. These are early spring bloomers have delightful nodding bells in many soft colors and delicate foliage.  Included among the C. atragenes are C. alpinas (usually single), C. macropetalas (usually double), and C. koreanas.

I have sadly lost three of my six atragenes, C. Jacqueline du Pre (a crisp and lovely pink and white alpina), C. Cecile (a delightful blue-purple alpina), and C. Pauline (a richly colored purple macropetala).  Hrmph!  Maurice Horn of Joy Creek Nursery told me that he fears that the warmer weather of recent years in the Pacific Northwest has taken a toll on these cold-hardy plants.  We may start having trouble growing them here.  The three I lost were all against the house; the three I have left are all in the open garden, which is presumably a bit cooler, at least in winter.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Hmm, maybe I should buy more just for testing purposes.

BlueDancer2

In my garden, the first to bloom (as usual) is C. Blue Dancer with its extra long sepals.

MarkhamsPink1

Here’s the luscious and rosy C. Markham’s Pink, just beginning its show.  I also have C. Willy, another pink and white one, but his buds are still tightly closed.

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

MaidenwellHall3

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.

MaidenwellHall

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.

Clematis of the Month for March 2015: Clematis Markham’s Pink

C. Markham's Pink in full bloom.

C. Markham’s Pink in full bloom.

Here in Seattle (unlike the rest of the cold and snowy US) we had a mild winter and an unseasonably warm early spring.  As a result, all my atragene clematis, a group of clematis that includes alpinas, macropetalas, and koreanas, bloomed for me in March this year, more than a month earlier than usual!  These tough, cold-hardy harbingers of spring all have delightful bell flowers in many colors and delicate serrated apple-green foliage.  More of this group of clematis will no doubt make their way into my clematis collection.

Round buds of C. Markham's Pink

Round buds of C. Markham’s Pink

Clematis Markham’s pink was the first to bloom in my garden this year.  I love it’s soft pink blossoms and the small round pink balls that are its buds.  This clematis was named for Ernest Markham, an important early clematarian who, along with William Robinson, is responsible for saving many fabulous clematis hybridized by Francois Morel in the late 1800s and very early 1900s.  Among Morel’s hybrids are some of the most popular clematis still today:  C. Perle d’Azure, C. Ville de Lyon, and C. Comtesse de Bouchaud, along with many others.

Clematis Joe Zary, with it's sputnik flower.

Clematis Joe Zary, with it’s sputnik flower.

Also blooming in March is C. Joe Zary (a macropetala).  It’s new for me, as of last spring, and came highly recommended from Debbie of Silver Star Vinery.  Not only does it have spiky lavender flowers that remind me of sputniks or sea anemone, it is reputed to repeat bloom throughout the summer.  I can’t wait to see it blooming along with its host, a blue lacecap hydrangea.

C. alpina Cecile was blooming too high up in a tall variegated Azara for a good photo, but below are some of the other clematis that were showing off in my garden in March.

C. Blue Dander

C. Blue Dancer

C. Pauline

C. Pauline

New Zealand clematis, C. Pixie

New Zealand clematis, C. Pixie

Purple stems of C. recta purpurea already sprouting in March!

Purple stems of C. recta purpurea already sprouting in March!

Let the Blooming Begin!

Clematis blooming has begun in earnest at my house.  My Clematis alpinas and macropetalas are lighting up the garden with their blooms!  I really should plant more of them — what a happy boost they are in the spring.  The first to open was Clematis Blue Dancer–again!  It was the first to bloom last year, too.

Clematis Alpinas and Macropetalas (Atragene group)

Clematis alpina 'Blue Dancer', the first to Bloom!

Clematis Blue Dancer, First to Bloom!

Clematis Markham’s Pink in bud.

Markham's Pink

Here’s Clematis Cecile, first in bud, then newly open, and finally fully open.

Clematis Cecile in Bud

Clematis Cecile in Bud

Cecile Just Opening

Cecile Just Opening

 

Cecile Fully Open

Cecile Fully Open

Next up is Clematis Jacqueline du Pre draped over a daphne.

C. Jacqueline du Pre with Daphne

C. Jacqueline du Pre with Daphne

Here are two photos of Clematis Pauline.  I’m not sure why the second photo is so oddly intense, but I thought I’d show you anyway.  The blooms do present with a luminous color.

Clematis Pauline

Clematis Pauline

 

Clematis Pauline showing off her luminosity (maybe a little too much)

Clematis Pauline showing off her luminosity (maybe a little too much)

Clematis Joe Zary is a new one for me — I got it last summer from Silver Star Nursery, so it’s quite young still.

Clematis Joe Zary

Clematis Joe Zary

 Pruning Group 2 Clematis Already Showing Flower Buds!

Below are photos of the buds of several of my May/June Large-Flowered bloomers.  Ah, the anticipation!  Last year Will Baron and Fair Rosamond were neck-and-neck to be the first in this group to bloom.  We’ll see how this year goes.  Speaking of Will Baron, you may have read my earlier post about how I was going to be brave and cut back three of the old woody vines on this clematis to renew it.  Hrmph–time went by too fast with so many things to do and Will Baron developed lots of buds before I had a chance to prune it.  With all those buds, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  My new plan is to cut out the three old vines AFTER it blooms.  We’ll see how I do.

Clematis First Lady in bud

Clematis First Lady in bud

Clematis Will Baron in bud -- I chickened out on pruning out the old canes.

Clematis Will Baron in bud — I chickened out on cutting back the old canes.

Clematis Vyvyan Pennell

Clematis Vyvyan Pennell

Clematis Fair Rosamond

Clematis Fair Rosamond

How are the clematis in your garden doing?

April’s Clematis of the Month

My First Clematis Baby!

My First Clematis Baby!

The hands-down clematis of the month in my garden in April was, of course, my little seedling of Clematis koreana var fragrans H38.  What a moniker!  Maybe I’ll just have to name this one myself.  It’s the first clematis flower I have ever gotten from seed — and it took a while.  I planted the seed in October of 2010!  I love the mauve tepals with the dark purple base.  And the piece de resistance is the chartreuse center.   I can only imagine how lovely it will be as a mature vine with hundreds of flowers.  Sigh.

The Chartreuse Center

And here are the bright chartreuse staminoides inside. 

 Below are three other clematis that were especially showy in my garden during the month of April.  Many more are enthusiastically buddng up for a May show!   

Clematis Pauline

Clematis Pauline

Clematis Pixie

Clematis Pixie

Clematis Blue Dancer

Clematis Blue Dancer

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’

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