Witch Hazels’ in Bloom — Can Spring Be Far Behind?

20140131_162405Witch hazels’ are bursting into bloom all over Seattle, warming my heart and turning my thoughts to spring.  I have so many gardening chores lined up!  General cleanup, adding 25 or 30 new clematis to my drip system, sifting compost, weeding, pruning, and so on and so forth and scooby dooby do dah.  But it’s COLD out there!  I have become such a wimp since moving to Seattle from Boston nearly 10 years ago.  I just CAN’T work in the garden temperatures in the 30s any more.  Of course, in Boston, I couldn’t even consider any serious gardening until late March or April — February and March are statistically the biggest snow months there.  Don’t get me wrong, though, I loved living in Boston.  But I love gardening in Seattle more!  Zone 8-9 instead of Zone 6 and I can garden off and on all year round.  When I first came here, I had no idea what half the plants in the nurseries even were.  Phormium, abelia, enkianthus, choisyea, sarcoccocca–never heard of them.  Hardy fuchsias?  What a concept!

What with flowers blooming and the Northwest Flower & Garden Show just around the corner (February 5 -9), I will have spring fever for sure!

Clematis armandii Already Showing Flower Buds!

Emerging flower buds on Clematis armandii

Emerging flower buds on Clematis armandii

Check out the photo of the flower buds I saw yesterday on a Clematis armandii!  Wooo HOOOO!

Clematis recta Serious Black (aka Clematis recta Lime Close)

Clematis recta 'Purpurea' -- very similar to Clematis recta Serious Black.

Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’ — very similar to Clematis recta Serious Black.

Many thanks to my reader Sarah for letting us know that Wayside Gardens is now offering Clematis recta Serious Black via mail order!  You may remember that last year around this time, there was a big kerfuffle about this wonderful clematis with near-black leaves and small fragrant white flowers in summer. The plant is also known as Clematis recta Lime Close, Lime Close being the name of the garden in England where the plant was originally discovered. A small article in Fine Gardening magazine noted that this plant, a difficult one to find in the US, was available through the Northwest Perennial Alliance (NPA).  Turns out that the plant was available through NPA via seed rather than as a plant.  A short time later, at last year’s Northwest Flower & Garden Show, I discovered and blogged that one of the vendors there was selling bare-root versions of Clematis recta Serious Black. I think some of you were able to score one or two (I certainly did).

If you didn’t get one last year, get yourself one from Wayside Gardens this year!  There are so many ways that black plants can add contrast and depth to a garden. This clematis gets about 4 – 6′ tall.  It doesn’t climb, so it needs support or can be allowed to scramble around and through other plants.  The photo here is of a very similar plant, Clematis recta purpurea.

Clematis Walk

First Entries in the 2013 Clematis Spreadsheet

First Entries in the 2013 Clematis Spreadsheet

Yesterday, the time had come for my first clematis walk of the season.  I grabbed my clipboard and headed outside to check out all the clematis on my five-page spreadsheet.  As I moseyed through the garden, I took a good hard look at each clematis—if it was doing ok, I put a check next to it in the column for the day.  When I saw no sign of life, I jotted down a question mark.  If any had shown signs of the dreaded clematis wilt, I would have written a W and quickly cut away all the damaged parts of the vine (phew—no such dastardly signs on this walk!).  If the clematis sported buds, I wrote in a B.  If it was in bloom, I counted the blooms (later in the season I often have to guestimate, especially when a plant has more than 100 blooms) and put in that number in the chart.  

Lessons from Clematis Walks

My clematis walks are leisurely and enjoyable, but they have also taught me many lessons about clematis.  For example, I’ve learned that some of the large-flowered May-June bloomers can actually be in bud for six-to-eight weeks before the first flower opens!  Talk about anticipation.  Given Seattle’s dank weather, I often find early signs of slug damage, prompting me to  use Sluggo pronto.  Wilt gets dealt with quickly.  I am able to direct the growth of the clems before they get too settled into their own sense of direction (usually up).  I have also learned when to expect blooms.  Because I have been keeping clematis spreadsheets for years, I can compare bloom times from year to year and try to anticipate when each clematis will bloom in the current year.

Clematis recta 'Purpurea'

Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’

On yesterday’s walk, I noted that three Clematis alpinas were blooming, especially Clematis ‘Blue Dancer,’ with 60 blossoms.  My New Zealand Clematis ‘Pixie’ had 20 creamy white blooms.  Though according to last year’s spreadsheet, my Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’ won’t bloom til mid-June, it’s already making a show in April with its deliciously dark purple leafy stems topped with fat juicy vegetative buds.  I have a similar hybrid, Clematis recta ‘Lime Close’ (aka ‘Serious Black’), which I purchased at the Flower Show in February (see earlier post for more info).   I can’t compare the two, though, because Clematis recta ‘Lime Close’  hasn’t broken dormancy yet–I purchased it bare-root and left it outside in the cold (in a pot) to fend for itself.   I expect to see new growth any time now.

Clematis 'Rebecca'

Clematis ‘Rebecca’

Clematis ‘Rebecca’, a new one that showed up on my doorstep this spring, surprised me with a beautiful flower already.  Because it arrived in only a four-inch pot, I repotted it into a larger pot, where it will live til fall when I will find it a more permanent home in the ground.

During my first clematis walk of the season, I found seventeen clematis in bud, five with blooms, and nine showing no signs of life (yet).  With all the rain we’ve been getting lately, several showed signs of slug damage.  I also noted that five of my clematis weren’t even on my spreadsheet, for Pete’s sake, a problem I quickly rectified.  So I now I know that I have 142 clematis (not counting seedlings), both in the ground and in pots. 

I wonder what I’ll learn from next week’s clematis walk.

004P.S.  Just had to show you my sweet little Italian plum tree, its crown spangled with blossoms and its trunk cloaked in clematis vines.

News Flash: Clematis Serious Black FOUND!

Sundquist Nursery Label for Clematis Serious Black

Sundquist Nursery Label for Clematis Serious Black

Update! If you didn’t get a chance to get to the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in February to pick up your own Clematis Serious Black, all is not lost! Nils Sundquist of Sundquist Nursery — the nursery that was selling Clematis Serious Black at the Show — will also be selling this plant at his Garden Opens on the Kitsap Penninsula. See Nis’ comment below!

While wandering around the Northwest Flower & Garden Show today, enjoying the sites and feeding my need for spring, I asked each of the plant vendors I ran up on whether they carried clematis.  Several were selling Clematis armandii and one even had a couple of New Zealand clematis.  But when I stopped by Sundquist Nursery late in the day, I hit PAYDIRT!   Sundquist Nursery is selling bare-root plants of — drum roll, please — Clematis recta ‘Lime Close’, aka Clematis Serious Black!   

Oh, those lovely little roots!

Oh, those lovely little roots!

To learn more about this very interesting non-climbing clematis that sports  black (well, almost black) leaves, see my earlier post on the subject.  Clematis Serious Black was recently featured in Fine Gardening magazine, but the source mentioned for the plant (the Northwest Perennial Alliance) carries only seed.  As luck would have it, if you can get  yourself (or send a friend) to the Flower Show between now and Sunday (2/24) at the Convention Center in downtown Seattle, you too can have a bare-root plant of Clematis Serious Black of your very own (I  already bought mine!).  $12!!!  The box I found mine in seemed to have 15 or 20 more, so hurry on down!

%d bloggers like this: