The First Lady–May’s Clematis of the Month

TheFirstLady

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!

 

TheFirstLady2

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.

LouiseRowe

The satiny blooms of Clematis Louise Rowe

Rebecca

Clematis Rebecca

ClematisRamona&Marta

Clematis Ramona (lavender) with Clematis Marta

Josephine

The ever-stunning Clematis Josephine

Cezanne

Clematis Cezanne

Fireworks

Clematis Fireworks

Utopia

Clematis Utopia

ClematisFugiMusume

Clematis Fujimusume–such a gorgeous blue!

MorningMist

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

 

Climador

Clematis Climador (also known as Clematis Königskind)

 

Caroline&ViviennePennel

Clematis Caroline (pink) with Clematis Vyvyan Pennell

 

ClematisLordHershall

Clematis Lord Herschell

 

 

Sonnette

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

CrystalFountain(FairyBlue)

Clematis Crystal Fountain (also known as Clematis Fairy Blue)

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 of the Month for May 2015

May’s Winner

May Winner--Clematis Cezanne adorning an oversized windowbox.

May Winner–Clematis CEZANNE adorning an oversized windowbox.

Choosing just one May winner this year was no easy task because many lovely clematis gracefully embellished my garden throughout the month.  After much consideration, the clematis I chose to take the prize is Clematis CEZANNE, with it’s big cluster of blue(ish) satiny flowers, draped over the edge of my windowbox.  This clematis, bred by clematis hybridizer Raymond Evison as a Patio Clematis, has a smaller root system than most clematis, making it perfect for a pot or, in my case, a large windowbox.  Patio Clematis bloom in several flushes throughout the summer, especially when deadheaded or cut back after each flush dies down.  Pruning is easy–just cut them back hard in late winter (even late fall in milder climates like Seattle).

May’s Runners Up

The runners up in May are no slouches.  Check them out!

The delectable double blossoms of Clematis Josephine

The delectable double blossoms of Clematis JOSEPHINE.

The glamorous Clematis Etiole de Malicorne

The glamorous Clematis Etiole de Malicorne

Already the first blooms of Clematis Etiole Violette, which normally blooms for me late June to early August!

Already the first blooms of Clematis Etoile Violette, which normally blooms for me late June to early August!

Clematis Fair Rosamond gracing a doorway.

Clematis Fair Rosamond gracing a doorway, this year with very strong pink bars, making it appear to favor Clematis Nellie Moser.

Clematis recta purpurea, cascading down from its support and about to open its prolific, though small, and fragrant flowers.

Clematis recta Purpurea, cascading down from its support and about to open its prolific and fragrant small flowers.

Clematis Proteus

Clematis Proteus

Clematis Louise Rowe

Clematis Louise Rowe

Clematis Tartu made a comely comeback after wilting last year!

Clematis Tartu made a comely comeback after wilting last year!

Clematis Omoshiro

A slightly tattered Clematis Omoshiro (oh, those pesky slugs!).

Clematis Utopia, which is similar to Omoshiro above and another lovely clematis I covet, Clematis Fond Memories (no photo here)

Clematis Utopia, similar to Omoshiro above and to another lovely clematis I covet, Clematis Fond Memories (below)

Clematis Fond Memories

Clematis Fond Memories (photo taken by me at the Rogerson Clematis Collection in Lake Oswego, Oregon).  Sadly, this one does not yet grace my own garden.

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 »

Planted Three Clematis (C. ‘Louise Rowe’, C. ‘I Am Lady Q’, and C. alpina ‘Markham’s Pink)

C. alpina 'Markham's Pink'

C. alpina ‘Markham’s Pink’

Events both at home and at work have conspired to give me little time in the past three weeks for contemplating clematis, let alone doing anything with them or writing about them.  Things have let up a bit now, thank goodness.

I did manage to get three of my clematis planted between raindrops, only seven more to go.   (For tips on planting a clematis, click on the Buying and Planting Clematis category on the left.) To learn how to plant a clematis, see my earlier post.)  The first to go in the ground was C. alpina ‘Markham’s Pink.’   It is snugged up to an Azara, a narrow evergreen shrub or small tree with tiny dark green leaves.  I think the two will look stunning together when ‘Markham’s Pink’ blooms in April. 

This clem was hybridized by Ernest Markham, a British clematis enthusiast for more than 35 years in the early half of the twentieth century.  He and his employer and friend, William Robinson, took on many clematis from a prolific French hybridizer, Fransique Morel, when Morel lost interest in clematis.  As a result, we can grow many of Morel’s beautiful clematis today.  Here’s a list of the beautiful Morel clematis I grow–I am sure you will be seeing them in future posts, and perhaps you grow some of them yourself:  ‘Abundance’, ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’, ‘Etoile Violette’, ‘Gravetye Beauty’, ‘Huldine’, ‘Little Nell’, ‘Madame Julia Correvon’, ‘Minuet’, ‘Perle d’Azur’, ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’, and ‘Ville de Lyon’. 

C. 'Louise Rowe'

C. ‘Louise Rowe’

Next I tucked a specimen of C. ‘Louise Rowe’ into the ground near both Rosa ‘Jude the Obscure’, a soft yellow David Austin climber, and a Choisea ternata, or Mexican Orange, which is an evergreen shrub with fragrant white flowers in early summer. 

This beautiful clematis sports pale mauve satiny double flowers in spring (May/June), then semi-double and single flowers later.   All three types of blooms can be on the vine at one time.  I’ve hankered for this clematis for some time and can’t wait to see it bloom with the round cabbage form of the yellow rose.  It will also look gorgeous draped over the Choisea.  I’ll be sure to post photos.

C. 'I Am Lady Q'

C. ‘I Am Lady Q’

Seems that I was in a pink-mauve mood when I recently planted clematis.   C. ‘I Am Lady Q’  is a lovely and prolific bloomer with nodding bi-color flowers in white and lavendar that blooms in high summer (July/August).  It was hybridized by Wim Snoeijer of Van Zoest nursery in The Netherlands.  I have the privilege of knowing Wim, who is a prolific producer of great clematis.   I chose to give ‘I Am Lady Q’ a home in a perennial bed in front of my deck where it can frolic with C. ‘Princess Diana’ (pink) and C. ‘Blekitny Aniol’, or ‘Blue Angel’ (light blue).

The weather looks fairly decent this afternoon, so I’d better get out there and dig some holes for all the poor clems still in pots!

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