April’s Clematis of the Month: Clematis ‘Asao’


For the third year in a row here in Seattle, we have had the mixed blessing of a mild winter and warm spring–causing most clematis to bloom a full month early!  Except for Clematis montana ‘Vera’, C. ‘Asao’ and all the clematis below would normally bloom for me in late May and  early June, rather than in April.

In my garden, C. ‘Asao’ is the Clematis of the Month for April because of its stalwartness, as well as its beauty.  Since this clematis supposedly blooms on old wood, conventional clematis wisdom says that we should not prune it until spring, and then only lightly.  Well, the problem for me was that I planted C. ‘Asao’ in two large window boxes on either side of the front door.  In winter, they are downright ugly with big crusty, rusty brown leaves .  Yuch.  So a few years ago,  I worked hard to dig them out and replaced them with plants that bloom on new wood and can therefore be cut back in the fall, at least they can be in the Seattle area.   Unfortunately, the two replacements, C. ‘Parisienne’ on one side and C. ‘Justa’ on the other, didn’t stand a chance.  ‘Asao’ may have been down, but not out for the count.  Both specimens slowly came back from a few stray roots I didn’t clear away and crowded out their replacements.  Hrmph.  I ruthlessly cut them back every fall anyway and guess what!  They grow fast and bloom beautifully with single and semi-double flowers right on time–and they do it on new wood!  Go figure.

More April-Blooming Clematis


Clematis montana ‘Vera’ blooming 40′ up in an 80′ Port Orford Cedar.  Due to scads of April sun, blossoms are nearly white rather than the more usual pink.



Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’, always the first large-flowered clematis to show off in my garden, is such a welcome sight after the winter doldrums.


Clematis ‘Will Baron’ invariably follows close on the heels of C. ‘Guernsey Cream’.



Poor Clematis ‘Fair Rosamond’ had to be unceremoniously removed from her climbing structure in March due to a tree fall.  Never fear, no people or pets were harmed, damage was mainly superficial, and insurance covered it all!  In spite of the ill treatment, C. ‘Fair Rosamond’ bloomed  beautifully, draped over a nearby plant and lounging on the ground.  She’ll be returned to her usual spot after she finishes blooming.


And then there is the show-stopping Clematis ‘Josephine’.  Her blossoms speak for themselves.


Crystal Fountain

Clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’ just opening its first bloom.

Kahori no kimi

First dainty bell on Clematis ‘Kahori no kimi’.


Clematis ‘Louise Rowe’ always seems to have a special glow, whether pale lavender or sun-faded white.


The fabulous rich purple of the leaves and stems of Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’.  And check out the juicy buds about to burst into tiny white and fragrant flowers.


Stay tuned, because many, many clematis buds are swelling, elongating, and titillating my spirits.  I will have more and different beautiful clematis to show soon.

Clematis of the Month for June: Clematis Etoile Violette

June Clematis of the Month:   C. Etoile Violette

June Clematis of the Month:
C. Etoile Violette

Seattle’s unusually long warm spring propelled all my clematis, as well as most of my other garden plants, into bloom a full month early this year–starting in March and continuing through April and May.  And then June was no different!  The usual stars in my June garden are early large-flowered clematis like C. Will Baron, C. Fair Rosamond, and C. Guernsey Cream.   But this year they had all put on their show in May and were devoid of blooms in June.

Fortunately, though, there was no dearth of clematis in my June garden–the July bloomers came to the rescue!  An excellent case in point is Clematis of the Month for June, C. Etoile Violette.  This 10-year-old plant, which gracefully drapes itself over and through a dying Italian plum tree in the middle of my garden, had more blooms this year than ever before.  I guesstimated over 1,000 blooms all at one time in mid-June.  Check out the photos below, taken on June 13, of C. Etoile Violette from all sides.

C. Etiole Violette, south side

C. Etiole Violette, South Side

C. Etoile Violette, west side

C. Etoile Violette, West Side

C. Etoile Violette           East Side

C. Etoile Violette, East Side

C. Etoile Violette         North Side

C. Etoile Violette,  North Side

April 2015 Clematis of the Month

And the Winner Is…Clematis Will Baron!

Clematis WIll Baron Wins Again!

Clematis Will Baron Wins Again!

Base of C. Will Baron before cutting through the three oldest vines. Note the three younger vines on the left.

Base of C. Will Baron before cutting through the three oldest vines. Note the three younger vines on the left.

In my garden last year, the reliable and beautiful C. Will Baron won Clematis of the Month in May 2014 for it’s beautiful blooms and for being the first of the large-flowered clematis to bloom for me.  This year Seattle’s mild winter and early warm spring brought Will out first again, a full month early–it’s leading bloom opened on April 9th (first bloom last year was May 10th)–and this was in spite of being heavily pruned in January.  Flowers all over my garden are coming into bloom several weeks early, making us Seattle gardeners worry about what will be left to bloom in June!  Roses are out already, as are alliums, iris, Spanish lavender, poppies, even rock roses.  Crazy.

Base of C. Will Baron in April.  Three old vines are gone, replaced by much new growth.

Base of C. Will Baron in April. Three old vines are gone, replaced by much new growth (accompanied by  groundcover campanula).

The passage of time has had a negative effect on C. Will Baron, which has graced my garden for about ten years now.  It slowly developed a large and unruly rat’s nest of dead vines.  Each year the live vines would coat the outside of this giant ball with gorgeous flowers.  So, what’s the problem, you ask?  Unfortunately, as the rat’s nest got bigger and bigger, more and more plants below suffered from too much shade.  Last year I intended to cut Will back in late winter, but chickened out when loads of tiny new flower buds formed.  This year, in the dead of January, I finally got up my courage.  At the base of the plant I cut through three thick old woody canes that looked almost hairy with pealing bark, leaving three much younger canes alone.  When green growth appeared sometime in February or March, I could easily tell which vines were dead and which living.  After a patient three hours of pruning to get all the deadwood out, working from the top to the bottom, the rat’s nest was history–though history will no doubt repeat itself.  This method of pruning an overgrown clematis–cutting through old vines at the base during the winter, then pruning out the dead stuff when spring begins to push green growth–is one I know I will use again to control my more rowdy clematis.  Check out the before and after photos of C. Will Baron’s vines at the base.

A Bevvy of Other April Beauties

May is gearing up to be a banner month in the garden this year.  Many more of my large-flowered stunners were already beginning the show in late April!

The first bud of C. Josephine about to open.

The first bud of C. Josephine about to open.

C. montana Vera, 40' up a 90' Port Orford Cedar!

C. montana Vera, 40′ up a 90′ Port Orford Cedar!

The gorgeous purple leaves of C. recta purpurea, nearly 6' tal!

The gorgeous purple leaves of C. recta purpurea, nearly 6′ tall already!

The ever-lovely C. Guernsey Cream.

The ever-lovely C. Guernsey Cream.

C. Fair Rosamond starting to strut her stuff.

C. Fair Rosamond starting to strut her stuff.

Read the rest of this entry »

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!

April Clematis of the Month — And More!

April's Clematis of the Month:  C. Guernsey Cream

April’s Clematis of the Month: C. Guernsey Cream

Clematis Guernsey Cream Wins April Clematis of the Month in My Garden!

Choosing just one Clematis of the Month for April was NOT easy.  Afterall, my Clematis alpinas were all blooming in April — with Clematis Pauline being my favorite this year.  Then, too, Clematis montana Vera was (and still is) looking great — but, being up so high in the cedar, it’s hard to photograph without a telephoto lens.  Clematis Guernsey Cream, though, was absolutely stunning in April and blooming early, too!

The determined C. Asao

The determined C. Asao

Clematis Asao Has Begun Opening

Originally, I thought either C. Josephine or  C. Fair Rosamond, with their big juicy buds, would be the next to bloom.   But two lovely C. Asao, one growing in each of my two big window boxes, had a different idea!  Because C. Asao is a Pruning Group B clematis, I never used to prune them until spring and then only lightly.  However, their ugly reddish brown leaves were a blight to my eyes all winter.  Two years ago I decided to remove both of them and plant Pruning Group C clematis instead because I could cut them back hard in the fall.  I happily purchased and planted C. Pariesianne and C. Justa as replacements.  But the contrary C. Asao had other plans.  They grew back!  They did not mind hard pruning, blooming in spring anyway!   And I think my replacements are being crowded out!  Dang.  But it is a pretty clematis.

Big juicy bud on C. Josephine!

Big juicy bud on C. Josephine!

Clematis Josephine Still Being  a Teaser

Now I really really think that C. Josephine will bloom next!  Check out this bud — it may even open tomorrow! Also, when I was poking around checking on my clematis this afternoon, I noticed that C. Etiole Violette, a great clematis  with its dark purple blooms, is also already in bud even though it’s generally a July/August bloomer.  Well, maybe June/August.


C. Duchess of Edinborough with Sunscald

C. Duchess of Edinburgh with Sunscald

Sunscald on Some Clems

Here in Seattle we have had an exceptionally cool and rainy spring with just a few sunny days mixed in.  But last week we were rudely blasted with a three-day heat wave.  I know many people enjoyed spring weather in the 80s but some of my plants (and I!) were not thrilled — we would have preferred our sunshine with temps in the 60s or 70s.   At least two of my clematis, C. Duchess of Edinburgh and C. Margot Koster, ended up with scalded leaves.  Guess I’ll just get out my little scissors and cut off the offending leaves.

Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’ and the Clematis montanas Enter the Fray

Saturday morning, my Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’ began it’s show — once again, the first large-flowered clematis to open in my garden.  This year the blooms came more than a week earlier than last year.  Lovely whenever it blooms!

The first blossom of Guernsey Cream -- just opening

The first blossom of C. ‘Guernsey Cream’ — just opening

Guernsey Cream, Fully Open

C. ‘Guernsey Cream’, Fully Open

A cluster of Guernsey Cream blooms just two days later

A cluster of C. ‘Guernsey Cream’ blooms just two days later

Yesterday, Clematis ‘Will Baron’ showed its first blossom,
but it was hidden inside the tangle of vines.

Clematis Will Baron, acting shy

C. ‘Will Baron’, acting shy

 I think the next to bloom will be Clematis Josephine.
Here it is in luscious bud.

C. Josephine showing off her fat buds.

C. Josephine showing off her fat buds.

Yesterday, I looked UP and realized my Clematis montana ‘Vera’ was blooming about 40′ up in its support system — a 90′ Port Orford Cedar!  Very difficult to get a good photo when the flowers are so far up, especially without a telephoto lens.  I hear they have lens attachments for smart phones now.  I’ll have to look into it.

C. 'Vera' up the tree

To make up for the poor quality of the C. montana photo above, I am adding photos of two beautiful Clematis montana I encountered in the last week or so.

My daughter Mireille's C. montana

My daughter Mireille’s sweet  C. montana

An unknown C. montana I saw today in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle.  Beautiful!

An unknown C. montana I snapped today in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. Beautiful!

My Clematis recta purpurea is not blooming  yet, but the rich purple leaves and stems are certainly putting on a show!

Oh, the rich purple leaves of C. recta purpurea!

Oh, the richly colored leaves of C. recta purpurea!

 Are your clematis starting to bloom, too?

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?

An Early Foray into the Garden

New Young Bud on Clematis Guernsey Cream

New Young Bud on Clematis Guernsey Cream

Cherry blossoms greeted my flower-hungry eyes the other day as I was driving home!

Encouraged, I made a foray into the garden this afternoon to take a serious look around at the clematis.  I had been out there a few times already to perform early garden clean-up chores — like removing brown slime, cutting back the old leaves on hellebores,  and winter pruning small trees and shrubs.  But I hadn’t really checked on the clematis yet.

So far this winter, Seattle has been spared the brutal cold and heavy snows that so much of the US has experienced.  When I took a close look at some of the clematis today, I was thrilled to see that our mild weather had emboldened many of the spring-bloomers (especially Pruning Group 2) to bud up already — seemingly much earlier than usual.  Woo hoo!  Time for me to get pruning!  My clems need me.

Clematis Jacqueline du Pre (I think -- there are several clematis in this area)

Clematis Jacqueline du Pre (I think — there are several clematis in this area)

Clematis Proteus

Clematis Proteus

Then there are the forlorn-looking clematis that I decided to grow on in pots another year.  Had to — I was wiped out after planting 24 clematis last fall!  I think I’ve lost track of where I’ve planted them.  Durn.  I have to be sure to get each and every one of them on the new drip system.  I hope I can locate them all and get them straightened out.  Oh, lordy, I’ve already ordered three more!

There’s no hope for me.

Unplanted Clematis

Unplanted Clematis

My poor little seedlings need my TLC, too.

Seedlings needing attention.

Seedlings needing attention.

Clematis Garden Tour in Portland

I know it’s late notice, but . . .

Clematis Garden Tour in Portland!

When: Saturday, May 25, 10am – 4pm

Where: five gardens in SW Portland, as well as the Rogerson Clematis Collection’s clematis display gardens and nursery nearby at Luscher Farm in Lake Oswego.

Fee: $20

Click here for more info, including how to get tickets.

I am so sorry that I didn’t tell you all sooner about this! My life has been crazy lately.

I attend the fabulous Rogerson Clematis tour every year — it’s always on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. Attendees see gorgeous gardens that demonstrate how to use clematis effectively in home garden situations. Plus the Rogerson Clematis Collection (in Lake Oswego, just south of Portland) will be selling clematis — and, believe me, they have some unusual ones! One of the gardens will also be selling plants. And, if you have time, both Joy Creek Nursery and Cistus Nursery are nearby.

So if you don’t have anything planned for Saturday, make it a day trip, or even stay overnight in Portland. I am!!

Clematis Blooming in My Garden

Clematis Guernsey Cream

Clematis Guernsey Cream

Clematis montana Vera -- 40' up a 90' Port Orford Cedar!

Clematis montana Vera — 40′ up a 90′ Port Orford Cedar!

Clematis Will Baron with Rosa mutabilus

Clematis Will Baron with Rosa mutabilus

Clematis Crystal Fountain, aka Clematis Fairy Blue

Clematis Crystal Fountain, aka Clematis Fairy Blue

Clematis Josephine, just opening

Clematis Josephine, just opening

Clematis Fair Rosamond

Clematis Fair Rosamond

Clematis Asao

Clematis Asao

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

Clematis 'Guernsey Cream'

Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’


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

‘Fair Rosamond’ After Pruning

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