Clematis Bells

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Clematis ‘Buckland Beauty’–beautiful bell flowers inherited from Clematis texensis.

Gardeners who have a nodding acquaintance with clematis are often only aware of the big beautiful heart-stopping, jaw-dropping blossoms of late spring.  As one becomes more and more enamored with clematis and delves deeper into the genus, the dainty beauty and wide variety of the bell-shaped flowers are the ones that captivate.

The southeastern US is a breeding ground for many bell-flowered clematis species, which have long been widely used by hybridizers to create lovely new plants.  Clematis ‘Buckland Beauty’ above, for example, is the result of a cross between Clematis texensis (a red bell-flowered species from Texas) and one of the other species.

The Texensis Clan

In my last post, I described Clematis texensis and some of its progeny.  The species, which grows in Texas, is variable.  The flowers tend to have a downward-facing bell shape, usually with recurved tips, sometimes lined with white or yellow.  The inside of the tepals can be various shades of red, yellow, or white.


A lovely red Clematis texensis with white accents


A Clematis texensis seedling with reddish-purple outer tepals, white on edges and the underside


Here’s another, a bit pinker with a shorter flower.

Hybridizers discovered the wonderful red of Clematis texensis (also called the Scarlet Clematis) in the late 1800s, and still today exciting new hybrids come onto the market.  Crossing Clematis texensis with other types of clematis has resulted in an astonishing variety of new and beautiful plants, such as flatter blossoms of Clematis ‘Ville de Lyon’ and Clematis ‘Catherine Clanwilliam’ showcased in my last post.   Of course, many of the progeny have bell-shaped blossoms, like the aforementioned Clematis ‘Buckland Beauty’ and the following lovely offspring of this interesting species.


Clematis Sonnette climbing through a variegated Azara.


Clematis ‘Duchess of Albany’, hybridized using C. texensis 125 years ago!

Princess Diana

The beautiful Clematis ‘Princess Diana’


Clematis Princess Kate ‘Zoprika’, one of the newest texensis hybrids coming from J. van Zoest Nursery in The Netherlands.  Photo from J. van Zoest Nursery.

The Crispas

Clematis crispa is another American species, native in the southeastern US.  This sweet small bell flower often has tepals that curl strongly back on themselves.  It comes in many soft colors–white, light blue, mauve, pink.  The crowning glory for this clematis is its beautiful light fragrance.

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One form of Clematis crispa

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Clematis ‘Betty Corning’, discovered growing in a garden in Albany, is clearly a Clematis crispa seedling, especially given its delightful fragrance.

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Clematis ‘Princess Red’ certainly looks to be a Clematis crispa hybrid, but the color suggests that Clematis texensis might be the other parent!

The Viornas

Clematis viorna, like C. crispa and C. texensis, is one of over 20 species that are native to the southeastern US and Texas, which are all grouped together in the viorna section of the genus clematis.  Clematis viorna is just one of the many clematis in the viorna section.  It has flowers in the shape of small bells or urns that come in colors like red, pink, reddish brown, and purple.  Many plants sold as the species may actually be hybrids of Clematis viorna and another clematis in the larger viorna clan.


One of my two Clematis viorna.  This one pairs beautifully with Beauty Berry!


A different Clematis viorna looking adorable on my fence

Japanese Hybrids

Many interesting clematis with bell-shaped flowers have been coming out of Japan for many years.  Joy Creek Nursery is a good source for Japanese clematis.  Below are three examples.


The fragrant Clematis Kahori no Kimi–perhaps Clematis crispa is a parent?


Clematis Hakuji–another Clematis crispa descendent?


Clematis Shizuku–looking a little viorna-like?

The best sources I’ve found for bell flowers are Brushwood Nursery and Joy Creek Nursery.   So, come on–get one of these dainty-blossomed clematis for your very own!

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?


August Clematis of the Month

Closeup of Clematis viorna

Closeup of Clematis viorna

Finally, the dog days of August have come to an end here in Seattle! The weather was so hot and dry for so long that many of my clems simply shut down. Now that the temperatures have moderated and nearly two inches of rain have fallen in the last week, many of my struggling clematis are beginning to show new growth.  In spite of our difficult weather, though, a few of clematis stood out in August.

The August Winner: 
Clematis viorna

The hands-down winner in my garden during the month of August was Clematis viorna, a species clematis  from the southeastern US that I purchased from Brushwood Nursery a few years ago.  This plant, which has been blooming since early July, was not phased in the least by the hot dry weather.  Every year, it blooms and blooms until hard frost (usually about mid-November for me).  Soon the purple berries of the beauty berry (Calicarpa) it grows on will be in full color, making quite a show with Clematis viorna – I will be sure to post a photo when this dynamic duo struts its stuff.  The vine also climbs up into my paperbark maple (Acer griseum) where it’s too high for me to deadhead.  But I do deadhead all that I can reach regularly, hopefully extending the bloom time. Another plus for this clematis is that hummingbirds love it!

Last spring I purchased a second Clematis viorna from the Rogerson Clematis Collection in Lake Oswego, which I am told will have red blooms. Time will tell. 

Clematis viorna, Blooming Since Early July!

Clematis viorna, Blooming Since Early July!

The Runners Up

Clematis Cassis

Several other clematis managed to show off in my garden during August in spite of the heat and drought. First up is Clematis Cassis. I bought this one last May at Joy Creek Nursery and planted it on my deck in a pot. It immediately took a fit and died back completely to the soil level – geez. Then, in early August, it sent up a single vine that magically sported stunning double flowers!

Closeup of Clematis Cassis

Closeup of Clematis Cassis

Madame Baron-Veillard

Madame Baron-Veillard is a useful clematis that doesn’t even think about blooming til late August or early September.  A fresh new clematis blooming this time of year is truly a treat. It’s mauve tones beautifully complement autumn perennials, like asters, colchicum, rudbekia, phlox, and many others, that are just beginning to burst into bloom.  Another clematis that blooms late like this is Clematis Lady Betty Balfour, with deeper purple flowers – great if you can find one!

Fall-Blooming Mme Baron-Veillard

Fall-Blooming Mme Baron-Veillard

Clematis florida sieboldii

This scrumptious clematis just keeps on going!  It bloomed continually in my garden for six or seven weeks in July and August.  Everyone who came into the garden ooohed and aaaahed over this one!

Clematis florida sieboldii

Clematis florida sieboldii

Clematis Kermisina

Clematis Kermisina is a late-blooming viticella type, flowering for me primarily in August.  Each carmine red tepal has a touch of white at the base, which sets off the black boss beautifully.  An easy care clematis I wouldn’t want to do without.

Clematis Kermisina

Clematis Kermisina

The Texensis Hybrids

Of course, any garden with a clematis texensis hybrid in it will likely have blooms in August.  These wonderful clematis, derived from a species clematis from Texas with small red flowers (Clematis texensis), make a bold late summer impact.  One of the most beautiful is Clematis Princess Diana, but mine got swamped this year by my pushy sweet autumn clematis and didn’t bloom.  And, of course, now we have the new one, white with a lavendar base, named Clematis Princess Kate.  Though primarily available in Europe, I am lucky enough to have one, but mine is still too young to bloom.  Below, though, are three others that were showing off in my August garden.

Clematis Duchess of Albany

This plant was hybridized in the late 1800s and has been grown in gardens ever since.  I purchased mine as Clematis Etoile Rose, but recently realized that it was in fact Duchess of Albany.  Lovely, nonetheless, especially cavorting in a hydrangea.

Clematis Duchess of Albany Growing through a Hydrangea

Clematis Duchess of Albany Growing through a Hydrangea

Sir Trevor Lawrence

Also growing in a hydrangea, Clematis Sir Trevor Lawrence, hybridized at the same time as Duchess of Albany, has a much darker pink color with purplish stripes (which unfortunately don’t show up well in this photo).

Clematis Sir Trevor Lawrence

Clematis Sir Trevor Lawrence

Clematis Lady Bird Johnson

The last of the August bloomers I’ll show you today is Clematis Lady Bird Johnson, another Clematis texensis hybrid. In spite of a tendency toward powdery mildew (along with a few other clematis with texensis in their backgrounds), its blossoms are gorgeous with really long stamens.

Clematis Lady Bird Johnson

Clematis Lady Bird Johnson

We’ll see what September brings. One thing I know for sure is in store for me in September is a whole lot of clematis planting! Just yesterday I counted up the pots of clematis that have settled themselves in my potting area and came up with a daunting 23. Yikes! Where oh where will I plant them all?

Clematis Blooming in December

A very late and a bit tattered C. 'Duchess of Edinburgh'

Clematis in my garden have been showing no signs of entrancing me with blooms in December.  Then the other day I thought to look up.  There, about 10′ off the ground up the gutter, Clematis ‘Duchess of Edinburgh’, a double June bloomer that sometimes reblooms with single flowers, had opened a somewhat tattered white flower, with second one on the way — maybe we’ll see that one in January.  I had to  hang out an upstairs window to get the photo.   What a delightful surprise at the end of December! 

Two other clematis I have are supposed to bloom in November and December, Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ (see photo below) and Clematis cirrhosa ‘Jingle Bells’.  Jingle Bells, which is said to sport white bells in late fall/early winter, at least has the excuse of having been in the ground only a little over a year.  Freckles, on the other hand, was planted in 2008 and has no such saving grace.  My plant, which should bloom in late autumn, tends to throw a few blooms in July or August, then nothing in the fall.  Though it’s evergreen with dainty fresh green leaves throughout the winter, I hanker for the flowers!  In the photo below, my C. ‘Freckles’ demonstrates its disdain for bloom times by showing off with my Barberry ‘Helmond Pillar’ and Irish Bells in July!  Geesh.  You can see why it was named ‘Freckles’, though. I guess there’s still time — both Jingle Bells and Freckles are said to bloom from late fall through February. We’ll see.

Cirrhosa freckles

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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