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 »

Clematis of the Month for March 2015: Clematis Markham’s Pink

C. Markham's Pink in full bloom.

C. Markham’s Pink in full bloom.

Here in Seattle (unlike the rest of the cold and snowy US) we had a mild winter and an unseasonably warm early spring.  As a result, all my atragene clematis, a group of clematis that includes alpinas, macropetalas, and koreanas, bloomed for me in March this year, more than a month earlier than usual!  These tough, cold-hardy harbingers of spring all have delightful bell flowers in many colors and delicate serrated apple-green foliage.  More of this group of clematis will no doubt make their way into my clematis collection.

Round buds of C. Markham's Pink

Round buds of C. Markham’s Pink

Clematis Markham’s pink was the first to bloom in my garden this year.  I love it’s soft pink blossoms and the small round pink balls that are its buds.  This clematis was named for Ernest Markham, an important early clematarian who, along with William Robinson, is responsible for saving many fabulous clematis hybridized by Francois Morel in the late 1800s and very early 1900s.  Among Morel’s hybrids are some of the most popular clematis still today:  C. Perle d’Azure, C. Ville de Lyon, and C. Comtesse de Bouchaud, along with many others.

Clematis Joe Zary, with it's sputnik flower.

Clematis Joe Zary, with it’s sputnik flower.

Also blooming in March is C. Joe Zary (a macropetala).  It’s new for me, as of last spring, and came highly recommended from Debbie of Silver Star Vinery.  Not only does it have spiky lavender flowers that remind me of sputniks or sea anemone, it is reputed to repeat bloom throughout the summer.  I can’t wait to see it blooming along with its host, a blue lacecap hydrangea.

C. alpina Cecile was blooming too high up in a tall variegated Azara for a good photo, but below are some of the other clematis that were showing off in my garden in March.

C. Blue Dander

C. Blue Dancer

C. Pauline

C. Pauline

New Zealand clematis, C. Pixie

New Zealand clematis, C. Pixie

Purple stems of C. recta purpurea already sprouting in March!

Purple stems of C. recta purpurea already sprouting in March!

August Clematis of the Month

Clematis viorna in early August, blooming away.

Clematis viorna in early August, blooming away.

C. viorna still blooming in October, color-coordinating itself with the purple beauty berry.

C. viorna still blooming in October with beauty berry.

August was a difficult month for clematis in Seattle, where we suffered the hottest summer on record, along with very little rain.  OK, OK, so some people loved it — but not me or my clems.  I’m learning the hard way that most clematis do NOT like really hot dry weather.  Many of mine took a snit and slowed down or stopped flowering altogether, AND developed crispy brown or spotted leaves.  Hrmph, not an alluring effect.

But Clematis viorna came through the hot weather like a charm, perhaps because it originates from the summer-hot southeastern US.  This clematis, which began blooming for me in late May or June, continued to sport loads of blossoms and unscathed leaves throughout the month of August, making it my garden’s Clematis of the Month for August.

Purple leaves of C. recta purpurea for the second time.

Purple leaves of C. recta purpurea for the second time.

C. recta purpura, blooming a second time in late August!

C. recta purpura, blooming a second time in late August!

The Challenger

Clematis recta purpurea was a contender this month, even though it was Clematis of the Month for July.  This clematis, which has the most beautiful rich purple foliage in the spring, bloomed wonderfully in June with small fragrant white flowers.  As noted last month, I cut it back to the ground when it finished blooming and quickly got new purple leaves, as expected.  But I did not expect it to bloom again!  Check out it’s second blooming in August!

Problem Clematis

In June and July, I cut back several clematis–hard–for various reasons.  Clematis Vancouver Morning Mist wilted in June for the FOURTH year in a row.  I cut it back to the ground and informed the culprit that my patience was gone.  In the fall, it would be OUTA HERE!  One August morning, I noticed something pink beckoning me over by the entry path.  Good gracious!  It was C. Vancouver Morning Mist opening the first of what turned out to be seven blossoms.  I must have scared the living daylights out of it!  I guess I’ll keep it.

C. Vancouver Morning Mist -- Reprieve!

C. Vancouver Morning Mist — Reprieve!

I was loosing my patience with C. Duchess of Edinburgh, too.  This clematis had one woody stem with no flowers and scorched ugly leaves.  Yuch!  I couldn’t take it.  Even though I might seriously set it back, I chopped it to about six inches.  It’s in a pot with a great-looking, heat-loving Chilean Glory Vine (probably a little crowded in there), so I didn’t miss the clematis much.  Well, to my surprise, C. Duchess of Edinburgh came back FAST with big fresh new leaves — and a bit later with several big fat buds!  The blooms were not double as they are in the spring, but they were lovely large pristine white blooms that looked great with all the greenery.  I wonder if clematis leaves grown in the cool moist spring and early summer in Seattle just aren’t programed to take our hot dry summers.  In my experience (especially this summer)  leaves that come into being in the heat of summer handle hot and dry just fine.

The Duchess Blooms!

The Duchess Blooms!

As mentioned in an earlier post, my young Clematis Tartu (with lovely large ruffled lilac blossoms in spring) succumbed to the wilt just as the first flower bud was ready to open and had to be whacked back to the ground.  Very disappointing, especially since I had it in a new ceramic pot by the patio!  But like C. Vancouver Morning Mist, this one grew back quickly and actually had several blooms in August.  Check it out!

C. Tartu blooms without wilting!

C. Tartu blooms without wilting!

What these three clematis have taught me is that if a clematis wilts, has scorched leaves, or is looking just plain ugly, go ahead and cut it back!  It may well come back and bloom again in the same year.  Some of my clematarian friends (like Debbie Fisher of Silver Star Vinery and Linda Beutler of the Rogerson Clematis Collection) have tried to tell me for years to cut them back at the drop of a hat, but I guess I just needed to see it for myself.

A Few More August Blooms

C. Beauty of Worcester blooming in August instead of spring.

C. Beauty of Worcester blooming in August instead of spring!

Clematis Freckles blooming in July instead of October!

Clematis Freckles blooming in August instead of October!

C. Kermisina blooming as expected--in August.

C. Kermisina blooming as expected–in August.

C. crispa

C. crispa

C. Little Nell (named for the young neighbor of the hybridizer)

Dainty C. Little Nell (named for the young neighbor of the hybridizer)

C. Princess Red

C. Princess Red

July Clematis of the Month: Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’

Gorgeous Plum Purple Leaves in July

Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’ showing off its second growth of plummy purple leaves in July .

Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’ is an upright plant that does not climb (the recta part of its name means erect) .  In my garden, the show starts in April, with the plant pushing fat purple buds up through the earth.  As time passes the buds elongate and stretch up and up.

C. recta purpurea

By early June, C. recta ‘Purpurea’ has reached six feet and begins to open small star-shaped white flowers.

C recta purpurea buds

Later in June it blooms extravagantly with thousands of tiny white flowers that waft a delicious fragrance through the garden.  The weight of the blossoms eventually causes the plant to flop, but oh, so gracefully.  As so often happens with purple-leaved plants, the leaves begin to lose that luscious purple color, but there is a solution!

recta purpurea

The reason this plant earns the status of July Clematis of the Month is that, if cut back to the ground (yes, to the ground!), it will grow a new clutch of purple buds that will quickly stretch out again, this time to about four feet (in my garden, anyway).  See the top photo above.  And now, in the first week of August, my plant even has new flower buds for a second showing of tiny fragrant white stars.  (FYI, the purple structure behind the clematis is my new bee hive.)

rectapurpureaAugust

Clematis recta ‘Purpurea’ is a great plant choice for any garden!

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?

Bloomin’ June!

 Drip System, at Last!

Each clematis has its very own emitter!

Each clematis has its very own emitter!

Life is good. My friend Sean helped me (uh, well, actually, I carefully watched him) put in a drip system for my clems and all my pots. I am in heaven. With the dry spell we’ve been having, I have NOT had to spend hours (sometimes DAYS) watering. YayHA! Thank you, Sean. He showed me how to tweak the system myself, and I plan to make some tweaks this weekend. Hmmm, we’ll see how that goes.

Soon I’m Off to the International Clematis Conference in Germany

Where are the clems? (2011 Belgium Conference)

Where are the clems?
(2011 Belgium Conference)

Yes, it’s true. There actually is an annual international conference where clematis enthusiasts from all over the world gather together to immerse themselves in clematis for a whole week. Later this month I will be heading to southern Germany to attend my third conference (the other two were in Portland, Oregon, and Belgium). Now, I know you are probably imagining us sitting around in a stuffy conference room listening to erudite lectures about obscure clematis. Oh, no, each day all 60 or 70 of us visit two to four gardens and nurseries together–punctuated with rest stops for delicious food and drink, amid comraderie in a multitude of languages.  But just imagine our consternation when, once in a while, we visit a garden with no clematis! Though we are able to enjoy the garden anyway, we are mystified that a gardener could actually neglect to weave at least one clematis into the garden design. We might even find a little time for one of those erudite clematis lectures, too. I plan to take lots of photos and hope to post from Germany, so keep a lookout (I’ll be in Europe from June 27 – July 11).

Bloomin’ June

My garden is in transition now between last of the large-flowered May-June bloomers and the beginning of the later-blooming clematis. Every day I find another clematis in bloom — what an exciting time! Here are just a few of my beauties:

Clematis Caroline, just starting her show.

Clematis Caroline, just starting her show.

Sweet Little Clematis Hakuji

Sweet Little Clematis Hakuji

Clematis Vyvyan Pennell (first bloom ever after four years of wilt!)

Clematis Ekstra

Clematis Ekstra

First Blossom of Clematis Etoile Violette (must be 5" wide!)

First Blossom of Clematis Etoile Violette (must be 5″ wide!)

Clematis Fair Rosamond, winding down

Clematis Fair Rosamond, winding down

Clematis Fugimusume

Clematis Fugimusume

First ever bloom on my new Clematis florida

First ever bloom on my new Clematis florida

Clematis Josephine, still going and going

Clematis Josephine, still going and going

Clematis The First Lady (she'd look lovely with the dark purple  Clematis The President )

Clematis The First Lady (she’d look lovely with the dark purple Clematis The President )

Clematis Margot Koster

Clematis Margot Koster

  

First of Many for my Recently Moved Clematis Pagoda

First of Many for my Recently Moved Clematis Pagoda

Clematis Proteus

Lounger (non-climber) Clematis recta purpurea

Lounger (non-climber) Clematis recta purpurea

Clematis Sonnette--adorable!

Clematis Sonnette–adorable!

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.

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