The First Lady–May’s Clematis of the Month


So many of the large-flowered clematis in my garden are blooming extremely early this year, as much as six – eight weeks ahead of schedule.  But whenever they choose to bloom, they look wonderful!

During my frequent strolls through the garden, I enjoy observing clematis in all their various stages–and, yes, sometimes I even talk to them.  This spring, Clematis ‘The First Lady’ talked back loudly, showing herself off to great advantage.  I purchased this clematis two or three years ago as Clematis ‘Rhapsody’, a clematis for which I had been hankering for some time.  Once I saw the first meager bloom, I knew I had purchased a misnamed plant.  But not until this year, when the poor clematis had built up enough strength to drag itself up out of the heavy shade of a big Fatshedera into the sunshine, did I really see what a gorgeous flower my mistake clematis produced–large lavender blooms (one flower actually measured 9 inches in diameter!), with contrasting burgundy stamens, ruffled edges, and textual ridges in the middle of each pointed petal.  Elegantissimo!  I was able to identify it as Clematis ‘The First Lady’ and seriously considered deeming this tough and beautiful plant Clematis of the Month for this month.

The First Lady3

Serendipitously, yesterday my yoga teacher described to me a clematis a friend gave her as a cut flower.  She has a fine eye for detail, so I was able to identify her unseen clematis from her description as Clematis ‘The First Lady.’  I showed her a photo on my smart phone to be sure and impressed both her and myself with my quick ID.  That clinched it–Clematis ‘The First Lady’ is Clematis of the Month for May in my garden this year!



Clematis ‘The First Lady’ is an American clematis introduced into commerce by Arthur Steffen in Long Island, New York, in 1989.  Mr. Steffen’s company is also responsible for introducing, in 1932, another gorgeous and famous American clematis, now grown throughout the world, Clematis Betty Corning.  The beauty of the name of May’s Clematis of the Month is that you can choose your own favorite First Lady to be represented by this clematis.  I know who mine is!

Below is a smattering of the many other worthy candidates blooming in my garden this month.


The satiny blooms of Clematis Louise Rowe


Clematis Rebecca


Clematis Ramona (lavender) with Clematis Marta


The ever-stunning Clematis Josephine


Clematis Cezanne


Clematis Fireworks


Clematis Utopia


Clematis Fujimusume–such a gorgeous blue!


Clematis Morning Mist–one of these blossoms measured 10 inches!



Clematis Climador (also known as Clematis Königskind)



Clematis Caroline (pink) with Clematis Vyvyan Pennell



Clematis Lord Herschell




The bells of Clematis Sonnette (also known as Clematis Peveril Peach)


Clematis Crystal Fountain (also known as Clematis Fairy Blue)

Clematis Blooming in November

Believe it or not,  several Clematis are blooming in my November garden.  Sweet Autumn Clematis and Madame Baron Veillard (mentioned in a previous post) are still blooming, though they are both beginning to wind down.  My lovely yellow-belled Clematis otophora (see last post) is also still showing off  its eye-catching blooms.  What a beautiful clematis!

C. ‘Cezanne’

I have a few summer-blooming clematis throwing a late bloom or two.  Among those are Clematis ‘Cezanne’, with a soft mauve-blue flower.  This is one of Raymond Evison’s patio clematis, bred to grow to only 4-6′ tall, be very floriferous, and have a long bloom-time.  C. ‘Cezanne’ blooms in a large window box for me and has several flushes of bloom throughout the summer.  I think this one will be the last for this year.

C. ‘Caroline’

Clematis Caroline is a June bloomer with soft pink flowers.  If you cut these June bloomers back by about 1/3 after their first heavy bloom, many of them (not all) will repeat bloom in the late summer or fall, though usually with smaller flowers.  I cut C. Caroline back about a third in early July and was rewarded with another flush in September.  This bloom is particularly late. 

C. ‘Duchess of Edinburgh’

A double June bloomer, Clematis Duchess of Edinburgh, is also giving me a show in November.  Like C. Caroline, I cut the Duchess back a third in early July and now it’s got two smaller single blooms and two buds.  I hope the buds make it through the cold spell we are expecting (maybe down to the mid thirties tonight — brrrrr). 

I want to show you two more clematis (see photos below).   My young (first year) Clematis Jackmanii on the left has been blooming steadily since early July and still has this one bloom left.  I don’t think I have ever had such a young clematis bloom so heartily in its first year.  But this is the famous C. Jackmanii, the first large-flowered hybrid clematis, which came into being in the late 1850s.  It’s proven itself over time and is, I believe, the most popular clematis ever.  The second clematis below is a new potted C. florida sieboldii.  I like my first one so much that when I saw another recently in a nursery, I snapped it up — and this one is still blooming.

C. florida sieboldii

I was hoping to be able to show you flowers on my November/December bloomers, Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ and Clematis Cirrhosa ‘Jingle Bells’, but not to be.   They may well be in bloom next month, though, so stay tuned.

Activities I will be engaged in soon (in addition to trying to get 10 more clematis in the ground)  are gathering seeds and cutting a few of the July-August bloomers back hard.

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