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

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

MontanaVera

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.

 

GuernseyCream

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

WillBaron

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

 

FairRosamond

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.

Josephine

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’.

LouiseRowe

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

purpurea

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 Bells

BucklandBeauty - Copy

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.

Texensis6

A lovely red Clematis texensis with white accents

 

TexensisSeedling

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

 

Texensis5

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.

sonnette

Clematis Sonnette climbing through a variegated Azara.

 

DuchessAlbany1

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

 

Princess Diana

The beautiful Clematis ‘Princess Diana’

 

PrincessKateST

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.

Crispa2 - Copy

One form of Clematis crispa

 

BettyCorning07-12-2 - Copy

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

 

RedPrincess - Copy

Clematis ‘Red Princess’ 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.

ViornaBeautyBerry

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

 

ViornaFront

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.

 

FrontBell

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

 

Hakuji

Clematis Hakuji–another Clematis crispa descendent?

 

SAMSUNG

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Ordering Clematis: Joy Creek Nursery

A Gloomy February Day in Seattle

A Gloomy February Day in Seattle

Weather here in Seattle has continued gray and drab, though day-length is noticably getting longer.  Take a look at the photo I just took from the back deck!   Gloom and doom.  Days like this are best spent armchair gardening (reading gardening books and seed catalogues) or computer gardening (surfing the net for garden ideas or plants to buy).

Personally, I opted to drool over my favorite online mail-order nurseries, especially those that carry oodles of clematis.  I zeroed in on Joy Creek Nursery

Maurice Horn, co-owner of Joy Creek Nursery, is very knowledgable about clematis.  I once had the privilege of hearing him give a fascinating talk about the history of how clematis came into the horticultural world from the wild, including stories of some of the characters who hunted plants and brought them to Europe, and how some of the first hybrids, like Clematis Jackmanii, came into being.  As a result of strong connections to current Japanese clematis hybridizers, Maurice has access to many unusual and beautiful clematis, including little beauties with small bell-shaped flowers.

Joy Creek Nursery

Joy Creek Nursery

One HUGE advantage of Joy Creek Nursery over some of the other mail-order nurseries is that one can actually go there in person as well as order online or via telephone.  The nursery, which  is open seven days a week from March through October, sells hordes of plants and has truly fabulous display gardens where visitors can see how plants grow and combine with each other, including many clematis.  Joy Creek also runs a Sunday lecture series throughout the summer.  They are located in Scapoose, Oregon, on the Columbia River north of Portland. (Photo from Joy Creek Nursery.)

But back to my mail ordering.  The many plants I’ve gotten from Joy Creek over the years, whether mail-ordered or purchased in person, have always grown healthy, strong, and beautiful.  Below are photos of two, Clematis Bijou (a ground cover clematis from British hybridizer Raymond Evison) and Clematis Shizuki (one of the Japanese hybrids with a blue-violet bell crisply outlined in white that blooms all summer in a pot on my deck).   This year, I ordered two more clematis from Joy Creek Nursery–Clematis Kahori no Kimi and Clematis Princess Red.  Both have flowers in the form of pinkish-red nodding bells, and Kahori no Kimi is said to have the additional enhancement of a citris scent.  I notice Princess Red no longer shows up on their website.  Yikes!  I hope they didn’t run out before they put my order through! 

Clematis Shizuki

Clematis Shizuki

Clematis Bijou, a ground-cover clematis

Clematis Bijou, a ground-cover clematis

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