A Fabulous Clematis Weekend

Last weekend, my husband and I drove down to Portland for a few days to relax, eat well, and just enjoy ourselves! For me, of course, that includes CLEMATIS! We visited Joy Creek Nursery, enjoyed an Inviting Vines Garden Tour of five lovely Portland gardens, checked out the fabulous gardens of the Rogerson Clematis Collection, and topped it all off with a special visit to Silver Star Vinery (a great mail-order source for clematis).

Joy Creek Nursery Display Gardens

Joy Creek Nursery Display Gardens

Joy Creek Nursery

On Friday after a delicious deli breakfast across from our hotel, we drove a few miles north to Joy Creek Nursery in Scappose. They had plenty of clems in stock, making deciding which ones I need quite a chore. In the end, I settled on two. The first is Clematis ‘Cassis’, a small reddish-purple double, with Clematis florida in its background–it was pictured on the tag as a luscious dark purple double. But when I looked it up on Clematis on the Web, I found it looks like this! Geesh, I like the first look better! Guess I’ll have to wait and see what I get. The other one I bought was Clematis heracleifolia ‘Cassandra’, which represents my first foray into the perennial clematis with highly fragrant hyacinth-shaped blooms.  While at Joy Creek, we picked up our tickets to the Rogerson Clematis Collection’s fundraiser, Inviting Vines Garden Tour, for the next day. On the way back to Portland, we made a stop at Cistus Nursery on Sauvie Island – this is a nursery with wonderful plants, though, alas, not much in the way of clematis.  They had only Clematis fasciculaflora–a winter bloomer, Clematis cartmanii Joe–a New Zealander, and a Clematis tanguitica (yellow bells). I didn’t need any of those. Nevertheless, several other plants from Cistus made the trip home with us.

The Inviting Vines Garden Tour
This annual garden tour orchestrated by the Rogerson Clematis Collection showcased five gardens, each one beautiful and unique, and all with clematis artfully incorporated. I saw a beautiful Clematis Josephine high up in a tree, an intensely blue Clematis Hakuoonan, and many others.

Clematis Josephine high up in a tree (and seen from a deck)

Clematis Josephine high up in a tree (and seen from a deck)

Clematis Hakuoonan, as seen in one of the tour gardens

Clematis Hakuoonan, as seen in one of the tour gardens

Lovely unknown clematis on Garden Tour

Lovely unknown clematis on Garden Tour

Rogerson Clematis Collection at Luscher Farm in Lake Oswego

018Our last stop on the tour was a visit to the Rogerson Clematis Collection (RCC) at Luscher Farm in Lake Oswego. What a treat! I am so impressed with how RCC has designed the gardens to enhance the ambiance of the old farmhouse as well as to showcase clematis and how to use them in a garden setting. Never fear, this is no clematis monoscape; rather, clematis are artfully blended with diverse and interesting plants and structures. A cadre of RCC volunteers, as well as curator Linda Beutler, were on hand to answer questions, sell unusual clematis from the nursery, and provide tours of the many gardens. Admission is free year-round!

Would you be surprised to learn that three new clematis from Luscher Farm came home with me? Well, they did: Clematis uncinata (a late-summer-blooming evergreen clematis with small white fragrant flowers), Clematis tibetana subsp vernayi var laciniifolia (orange bells with maroon stamens, also blooming in late summer), and Clematis ‘Jerzy Popieluszko’, a large-flowered Polish clematis with lovely big white blossoms on a short plant that should work well in a pot.

View of one of the Display Gardens at Silver Star Vinery

View of one of the Display Gardens at Silver Star Vinery

Silver Star Vinery

Silver Star Vinery is a wonderful mail-order clematis source nestled in the foothills of the Cascades northeast of Vancouver, Washington. Debbie Fisher, owner and head bottle washer (er, I mean head clematis tender), invited us to stop by on our way home from Portland. How could we refuse? This is a nursery that is not generally open to the public, even though Debbie has a humungous display garden filled to the brim with an amazing variety of healthy and beautiful clematis vines. Ahhhhhh. We arrived after a long and lovely drive from the highway up into the hills alongside a meandering stream. Debbie and her fellow clematis tenders, Dennis and Doug, met us at the gate. We wandered through the gardens with Debbie, who is a font of knowledge about clematis. Below are a few of the clematis we saw in bloom there–the Clematis Multi-Blue came home with us.

Clematis Asao

Clematis Asao

Lovely Clem, but don't know the name

Lovely Clem, but don’t know the name

Another beauty!

Another beauty!

Clematis montana Marjorie

Clematis montana Marjorie

Clematis H.F. Young

Clematis H.F. Young

Clematis Ivan Olsson (one of Debbie's Favs)

Clematis Ivan Olsson (one of Debbie;s Favs)

Clematis Daniel Deronda

Clematis Daniel Deronda

Another Unknown Clematis

Another Unknown Clematis

Clematis Multi-Blue (took this luscious beauty home with me!)

Clematis Multi-Blue (took this luscious beauty home with me!)

The Nitty Gritty of Pruning Early-Blooming Large-Flowered Clematis (Pruning Group B)

Clematis 'Guernsey Cream'

Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’

Introduction

The early-blooming large-flowered clematis are the ones with heart-stopping, jaw-dropping huge and beautiful blooms in May and June. A few even bloom as early as April, at least in Seattle’s climate. Some well-known cultivars in this group include Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ (pink), Clematis ‘Rebecca’ (red), Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’ (cream), and Clematis ‘Daniel Deronda’ (blue). (See photos .)

Clematis 'Nelly Moser'

Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’

Unfortunately, Pruning Group B clematis hang onto their leaves and leaf stems all winter long, resulting in a raggedy tatty mess. Don’t plant one of these clematis by the front door, because they can’t be pruned until spring when the new green vegetative buds begin to swell, showing us where to make our cuts. Fall pruning is out because it would likely send many of those beautiful flowers off to an early death in the yard waste.   The gorgeous clematis unfortunatley also have two additional downsides:  they require fiddly pruning and they are the ones prone to a dastardly disease called Clematis Wilt.  If I can gear myself up to do it, I will write a post about wilt one of these days.

Clematis 'Rebecca'

Clematis ‘Rebecca’

Clematis 'Danel Deronda'

Stripping the Vines

The time to prune these vines is when you begin to see green vegetative buds along the vines. The first step is to cut all the old leaves and leaf stems off the vines. The leaf stems (or petioles) are what clematis use to climb. They will have hardened over the winter and each one will have little hooks at the end (the leaf attachments), which greatly complicate untangling the vines. For a good look at what leaf stems look like, see the photo below of Clematis ‘Fair Rosamond’ before pruning. Removing the leaves and leaf stems, which is much like deadwooding a tree or shrub, is the most time consuming part of pruning the clematis in Group B. Take time and carefully remove all or most of these small leaf stems—work from the top down, bottom up, or inside out as long as you are cutting only leaves and stems, not the vines. I find that my little gardening scissors work best for this chore (see photo below). When done, you are left with stripped vines, some of which may have fallen off their supports since their little hook attachments were cut off.

Clematis 'Fair Rosamond' before pruning, showing old leaves and leaf stems

Clematis ‘Fair Rosamond’ before pruning, showing old leaves and leaf stems

Cutting Them Back

Now you can actually prune the vines.  Always do this work from the top down. The reason is that all the vines will look dead near the bottom, so you can easily cut a vine from the bottom, only to discover, to your chagrin, that the cut vine was carrying the bulk of the growth (and therefore the flowers). At the top of each vine, you will usually see a couple of joints on the stem with no growth, maybe a joint or two with puny growth, and then a joint with a large juicy green vegetative bud (see photo). Cut back to just above that juicy bud. Usually, between two inches and two feet of each vine get cut off. Don’t worry about any puny buds or no-bud joints below the juicy bud. Then tie or weave each vine onto its support. Spread the vines out as you do this and make as many as possible lay horizontally (or nearly so)—this effort will bring great rewards later with a more floriferous show over a greater area.  To see a vine with pruning completed, check out the after photo of Clematis ‘Fair Rosamond’ below.

Pruners work for cutting clematis vines, but my little gardening scissors work even better!

Pruners work for cutting clematis vines, but my little gardening scissors work even better!

After Pruning

Water and fertilize after pruning. Either use organic fertilizer (I use a mixture of manure and compost with a bit of bone meal and alfalfa thrown in) or any rose or tomato fertilizer.

Then sit back and enjoy the show! Once the clematis has just about completed its first blooming, a second bloom may occur later in the summer if you cut the vines back one-third to one-half. These clematis will grow many long vines over the summer, on which they will set the new flower buds for next year’s extravaganza. As these vines grow, twiddle or tuck the growing tips into their support in the direction you would like them to grow.

Clematis 'Fair Rosamond' After Pruning

Clematis
‘Fair Rosamond’ After Pruning

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