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!

 

 

 

 

 

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

Three Favorite Clems

Clematis Betty Corning

Clematis Betty Corning

Cold damp autumn days run me indoors, giving me time to work on organizing clematis photos, peruse nursery offerings, and consider which clematis zing me the most. Many, many clematis have captured me over the years, but I would like to present here three of my all-time favorites. I simply could not be without any one of them.

Clematis Betty Corning

A Different Plant of C. Betty Corning, showing variability in color

A Different Plant of C. Betty Corning, showing variability in color

As seen in the photos above and to the right, Clematis Betty Corning, with it’s lovely bluish-mauve graceful bells and upturning tips, is a delightful sight to behold. Add a delicious scent and a long prolific blooming period and you’ve got a winner, at least in my book. This clematis was found as a chance seedling growing in an Albany, New York, garden by Betty Corning in the 1920s. She recognized the value of this great plant and got it into the hands of someone who propagated it and got it into commerce. Lucky for us, it’s still widely available. Everyone should have one of these in the garden! Available in the US from the following excellent mail-order nurseries: Silver Star Vinery, Joy Creek Nursery, and Brushwood Nursery. Also frequently sold at local nurseries.

Clematis Gipsy Queen

Clematis Gipsy Queen

A Cascade of Clematis Gipsy Queen

A Cascade of Clematis Gipsy Queen

Clematis Gipsy Queen

The dark dusky blossoms of Clematis Gipsy Queen arrive for me in late summer, when many others are winding down. This clematis shoots up long and tall (12 feet or more) in just one season. It pairs beautifully with roses, other clematis, and trees, but it also looks great on its own. The tepals separate from each other leaving an open gappy look that appeals to me. Clematis Gipsy Queen, hybridized from the famous Clematis Jackmanii in 1877, has certainly stood the test time.  I just wouldn’t want to be without this one!  Available in the US from Joy Creek Nursery.   

Dainty Clematis Viorna

Dainty Clematis Viorna

Clematis Viorna

Clematis viorna is a lovely little thing. Mine blooms from June through September and is always a big hit with visitors to the garden who have never seen a clematis with small bell flowers before. The hummingbirds love it, too!  Clematis viorna can climb trees, drape trellises, and combine beautifully with a variety of plants. For example, I enjoy this one paired with beauty berry as the berries and the flowers have a similar color palette, but it looks great with a dark pink clematis like Clematis Ville de Leon, too. Clematis viorna is a native species of the southeastern United States.  Available in the US from Brushwood Nursery.

Clematis viorna

Clematis viorna

 

 

Fall Has Arrived

Even though fall arrived on Sunday in Seattle with rain, wind, and cooler temperatures, serveral clematis were still showing their wares.  Some even starred in beautiful  autumn floral combinations!

Clematis My Angel (rumored to be a thug)

Clematis My Angel (rumored to be a thug)

A Digression

But first, let me digress about a recent sighting of Clematis My Angel.   A month ago or so, my husband and I took a weekend jaunt to the quaint Victorian town of Port Townsend on the Olympic peninsula here in Washington State.  We enjoyed a great lunch one day outdoors on the patio of a little neighborhood restaurant. Several houses, including the restaurant (which had been a house in an earlier life), had yards that butted up against each other with a wide and winding semi-public pathway in-between. As we were eating, my eagle clematis eye recognized that an unfamiliar clematis was cloaking an arbor about 30′ away, so quite naturally I had to investigate.  It was Clematis My Angel, a hybrid of Clematis orientalis var orientalis and Clematis intricata, raised by Wim Snoeijer of the Dutch nursery Jan van Zoest. It’s a lovely clematis that blooms in August and has great seedheads.  I, however, have steered clear of it because of rumors that it can sometimes become invasive, not only reseeding but also running underground. It’s lovely, though, with nodding bronzy-purple buds that open to show off yellow undersides with brown stamens.  Hmm, maybe I DO need this one, after all. 

Way Too Many Clematis Need Planting

Sunday I managed to plant eight of the twenty-four clematis that have somehow showed up in my potting area.  Then, today, I upgraded four to larger  pots–too young or too small to plant out yet.  Because the eight clematis I managed to get planted this weekend are new to me, I have no photos of my own.  But you can check out the links below to Clematis on the Web to see what they look like.  All but one of these will join three or four others on the back fence of my property – and grow through to the alley-where they can WOW alley strollers and dog walkers!

Clematis Happy Birthday

Clematis Mrs. Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley)

Clematis Multi Blue

Clematis Omoshiro

Clematis Rebecca

Clematis tibetana subsp vernayi var laciniifolia

Clematis Vitiwester

Also planted, but in a place seen from inside the garden:

Clematis tibetana (black form) (should look similar to the one at this link)

A Sampling of my September Bloomers

One of the most lovely clematis blooming in my garden now is Clematis florida sieboldii next to my front steps.  I have enjoyed the one in my back garden so much that I got one last spring for the front .  It bloomed beautifully for me in June, but then collapsed to the ground (wilt?  broken stem? something else?  who knows?).  So I had to cut it to the ground – then, lo and behold, it grew a new stem and is blooming again in September!  Gotta love that clem!  

Clematis florida sieboldii (in my front garden)

Clematis florida sieboldii (in my front garden)

Madame Baron Veillard is still throwing its welcome late blooms.

Clematis Madame Baron Veillard

Clematis Madame Baron Veillard

Even Betty Corning has put out a couple of new blossoms for my enjoyment.

Clematis Betty Corning

Clematis Betty Corning

And Clematis Sizaia Ptitsa, which has been blooming for months, is still sending out new flowers.

Clematis Sizaia Ptitsa, still going strong

Clematis Sizaia Ptitsa, still going strong

Clematis Etoile de Malicorne, a June bloomer, showed off with a late and lovely blossom.

Clematis Etoile de Malicorne

Clematis Etoile de Malicorne

Nearby Clematis Ville de Lyon is blooming with the black berries of a Hypericum.

Clematis Ville de Lyon

Clematis Ville de Lyon

My Clematis terniflora (Sweet Autumn Clematis) is loaded down with buds and should burst into fragrant bloom any day now.  Though Sweet Autumn Clematis blooms for me here in Seattle in late September and early October, when I grew it in Boston (much much more heat), it would bloom for me from August to October!  But even with a shorter season here in Seattle, I wouldn’t be without it.

Multitudes of Buds on Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora)

Multitudes of Buds on Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora)

Great Autumn Clematis Combos

Late blooms of Clematis Margot Koster spontaneously color-coordinated itself with a Pee Gee Hydrangea.

Clematis Margot Koster

Clematis Margot Koster

Clematis Rooguchi Making a Comeback with Rudbekia Goldsturm.

Clematis Rooguchi

Clematis Rooguchi

As promised, here is a photo of my Clematis viorna cavorting with the beautiful lavender fruit of Beauty Berry (Calicarpa).

Clematis viorna with the lavender berries of Beauty Berry

Clematis viorna with the lavender berries of Beauty Berry

Two More Sweet Little Bells

Here’s a photo of a cute hybrid of Clematis pitcheri from the southeastern US.

Clematis pitcheri hybrid on a Ceonothus.

Clematis pitcheri hybrid on a Ceonothus.

A  Japanese hybrid, Clematis Hakuju has dainty white bells that bloom off and on all summer for me with the black leaves of a dark Actea (formerly Cimicifuga) and the clear green leaves and white flowers of Nicotiana sylvestrus.

Clematis Hakuju with a dark-leaved Actea (aka Cimicifuga)

Clematis Hakuju with a dark-leaved Actea (aka Cimicifuga)

What’s blooming in YOUR garden?

 

August Clematis of the Month

Closeup of Clematis viorna

Closeup of Clematis viorna

Finally, the dog days of August have come to an end here in Seattle! The weather was so hot and dry for so long that many of my clems simply shut down. Now that the temperatures have moderated and nearly two inches of rain have fallen in the last week, many of my struggling clematis are beginning to show new growth.  In spite of our difficult weather, though, a few of clematis stood out in August.

The August Winner: 
Clematis viorna

The hands-down winner in my garden during the month of August was Clematis viorna, a species clematis  from the southeastern US that I purchased from Brushwood Nursery a few years ago.  This plant, which has been blooming since early July, was not phased in the least by the hot dry weather.  Every year, it blooms and blooms until hard frost (usually about mid-November for me).  Soon the purple berries of the beauty berry (Calicarpa) it grows on will be in full color, making quite a show with Clematis viorna – I will be sure to post a photo when this dynamic duo struts its stuff.  The vine also climbs up into my paperbark maple (Acer griseum) where it’s too high for me to deadhead.  But I do deadhead all that I can reach regularly, hopefully extending the bloom time. Another plus for this clematis is that hummingbirds love it!

Last spring I purchased a second Clematis viorna from the Rogerson Clematis Collection in Lake Oswego, which I am told will have red blooms. Time will tell. 

Clematis viorna, Blooming Since Early July!

Clematis viorna, Blooming Since Early July!

The Runners Up

Clematis Cassis

Several other clematis managed to show off in my garden during August in spite of the heat and drought. First up is Clematis Cassis. I bought this one last May at Joy Creek Nursery and planted it on my deck in a pot. It immediately took a fit and died back completely to the soil level – geez. Then, in early August, it sent up a single vine that magically sported stunning double flowers!

Closeup of Clematis Cassis

Closeup of Clematis Cassis

Madame Baron-Veillard

Madame Baron-Veillard is a useful clematis that doesn’t even think about blooming til late August or early September.  A fresh new clematis blooming this time of year is truly a treat. It’s mauve tones beautifully complement autumn perennials, like asters, colchicum, rudbekia, phlox, and many others, that are just beginning to burst into bloom.  Another clematis that blooms late like this is Clematis Lady Betty Balfour, with deeper purple flowers – great if you can find one!

Fall-Blooming Mme Baron-Veillard

Fall-Blooming Mme Baron-Veillard

Clematis florida sieboldii

This scrumptious clematis just keeps on going!  It bloomed continually in my garden for six or seven weeks in July and August.  Everyone who came into the garden ooohed and aaaahed over this one!

Clematis florida sieboldii

Clematis florida sieboldii

Clematis Kermisina

Clematis Kermisina is a late-blooming viticella type, flowering for me primarily in August.  Each carmine red tepal has a touch of white at the base, which sets off the black boss beautifully.  An easy care clematis I wouldn’t want to do without.

Clematis Kermisina

Clematis Kermisina

The Texensis Hybrids

Of course, any garden with a clematis texensis hybrid in it will likely have blooms in August.  These wonderful clematis, derived from a species clematis from Texas with small red flowers (Clematis texensis), make a bold late summer impact.  One of the most beautiful is Clematis Princess Diana, but mine got swamped this year by my pushy sweet autumn clematis and didn’t bloom.  And, of course, now we have the new one, white with a lavendar base, named Clematis Princess Kate.  Though primarily available in Europe, I am lucky enough to have one, but mine is still too young to bloom.  Below, though, are three others that were showing off in my August garden.

Clematis Duchess of Albany

This plant was hybridized in the late 1800s and has been grown in gardens ever since.  I purchased mine as Clematis Etoile Rose, but recently realized that it was in fact Duchess of Albany.  Lovely, nonetheless, especially cavorting in a hydrangea.

Clematis Duchess of Albany Growing through a Hydrangea

Clematis Duchess of Albany Growing through a Hydrangea

Sir Trevor Lawrence

Also growing in a hydrangea, Clematis Sir Trevor Lawrence, hybridized at the same time as Duchess of Albany, has a much darker pink color with purplish stripes (which unfortunately don’t show up well in this photo).

Clematis Sir Trevor Lawrence

Clematis Sir Trevor Lawrence

Clematis Lady Bird Johnson

The last of the August bloomers I’ll show you today is Clematis Lady Bird Johnson, another Clematis texensis hybrid. In spite of a tendency toward powdery mildew (along with a few other clematis with texensis in their backgrounds), its blossoms are gorgeous with really long stamens.

Clematis Lady Bird Johnson

Clematis Lady Bird Johnson

We’ll see what September brings. One thing I know for sure is in store for me in September is a whole lot of clematis planting! Just yesterday I counted up the pots of clematis that have settled themselves in my potting area and came up with a daunting 23. Yikes! Where oh where will I plant them all?

Clematis of the Month for July

Close-Up of Clematis Sizaia Ptitsa

Close-Up of Clematis Sizaia Ptitsa

My life has been crazy in recent weeks, preventing me from posting for a while. So now I have to play catch up.

Choosing the Clematis of the Month in my July garden was not an easy task. But I was up to job and, Ta DAAAAA, it’s Clematis Sizaia Ptitsa. Saying Slice of Pizza comes close to the true pronunciation for those of us who can’t wrap our tongues around the Russian name of this lovely blue clematis. It’s what I like to call a lounger — it doesn’t actually climb, but rathers lounges about on whatever support presents itself. You can see what I mean in the photo below, which shows this clematis adorning the ground at the front of the garden, as well as working it’s way through the yellow-leaved Choisya ‘Sundance’ and the white and fragrant Nicotiana sylvestrus. Check out the close-up above, too.  This beautiful clematis bloomed voraciously in my July garden in spite of a drought. I do water my clems, but they can definitely feel the difference between watering and rain. Clematis Sizaia Ptitsa is still going strong now, in the second week of August.

Clematis Sizaia Ptitsa lounging about

Clematis Sizaia Ptitsa lounging about

 

July Runners’ Up in My Garden

 

Clematis florida 'Sieboldii'

Clematis florida ‘Sieboldii’

 

Clematis Sir Trevor Lawrence (a texensis hybrid)

Clematis Sir Trevor Lawrence (a texensis hybrid)

 

Clematis Jackmanii Purpurea

Clematis Jackmanii Purpurea

 

Clematis viorna

Clematis viorna

   

Upcoming Posts

Open Gardens at Silver Star Vinery

Clematis in Germany and Holland, Part 2

Ordering Clematis: Brushwood Nursery

Now let’s turn to the third, but most definitely not the least, of my three favorite mail-order nurseries for clematis, Brushwood Nursery.  Brushwood is all about vines–climbing roses, passion flowers, trumpet vines, honeysuckles, and loads of — you got it — CLEMATIS!

Clematis viorna from Brushwood
Clematis viorna from Brushwood

Dan Long, proprietor of Brushwood Nursery and a member of the International Clematis Society, has connections throughout the world that allow him to offer a wide variety of large-flowered, small-flowered, and non-vining clematis. He offers over 350 varieties, though many are already unavailable until he replenishes his stock.  But many others are currently on sale!!   In my experience, plants ordered from Brushwood take off and grow well. Once of my personal favorites from Brushwood is my huge species clematis, Clematis viorna (huge as in big plant — flowers are only about an inch long).  Its blooms are dainty though sturdy little bells with pert tips that recurve like a jester’s belled slippers. I planted this lavendar and white clematis to grow through a Calicarpa (Beauty Berry).  It starts blooming in July and continues to bloom until the beauty berry produces its delicate and lovely lavendar berries.  The two look wonderful together.  Argh!  I haven’t taken an aceptable photo of the pairing yet. 

Two of the many beautiful and unusual clematis Dan offers include Clematis Crystal Fountain (also known as Clematis Fairy Blue’), which is a lovely double, and Clematis Rebecca, one of the most beautiful of red clematis.  Photos below.

Clematis Crystal Fountain (aka Fairy Blue)

Clematis Crystal Fountain (aka Fairy Blue)

 

Clematis Rebecca

Clematis Rebecca

Collecting Clematis Seed

C. 'Sonnette'

Three clematis in my garden tempted me to collect seed this fall:   a sweet pink bell (Clematis Sonnette), a light blue little nonclimbing clematis (integrifolia type) from the Rogerson Clematis Collection (Clematis Skylark), and a species clematis (C. viorna) with small urn-shaped flowers in lavender and white (C. viorna). 

C. integrifolia ‘Skylark’

Growing clematis from seed tickles the imagination.  The anticipation is great, waiting first for the seed to sprout and then for it finally to bloom.  What color will the flower be?  What shape?  Will it be fragrant or have great seed heads?  You just never know til you see it.  Even the most careful of hybridizers can be surprised by the result of a carefully planned cross between two different clematis.  

C. viorna

I am a novice at starting clematis from seed.  My first foray into the process came into being when the British Clematis Society sent me seed in 2011 as a reward for joining .  Those first seedlings are growing well, but none have bloomed yet.  Since then I have also started seeds received from friends, the Rogerson Clematis Collection, and the International Clematis Society, as well as seeds harvested in my own garden.   One caveat about growing clematis from seed:  it can be a long process — not for the impatient.  Some seeds can take as much as three years to sprout; others as little as six months.

Seedheads from C. integrifolia ‘Skylark’

Today’s subject is about the first step in seed starting — collecting seed.   To be viable, clematis seeds need to be brown (not green) and should look as though they may drop any minute.  In the photo on the right, the seedhead in the middle is still too green and its feathery tails are not fluffy enough to harvest yet.  But take a look at the seedhead to the left and below it — seeds are brown with fluffy feathers and ready to be picked.  Some clematis have very long feathery tails like those in the photo (from C. ‘Skylark’) and others have much shorter tails that don’t fluff up so much.   Seeds can be large like C. viorna (below) — about 1/4 – 1/2 inch wide.  Others are smaller, but still visible.  If you don’t see any seeds in the fluff, there probably aren’t any.  Go out into your garden with a container or a baggie and check your clematis for viable seeds.  If you find seed, pull the whole seed head off with your fingers and drop it into a container.  Be sure to have a separate container for each plant from which you harvest.

Back indoors, dump the seeds, tails and all, on a plate or paper towel.  What a treasure trove of possibilities!  I take the time to pull the feathery tail off each seed.  This step allows me to get a better idea of just how many seeds I have, but is not required for successful germination.  

To the left are the C. viorna seeds prior to cleaning (removing the tails).  The purpose of these feathery tails is to help the clematis drift in the air and land, perhaps, a bit far from its mother.  But they are certainly not needed when planting seed in pots.  Below is the same set of seeds, minus their tails. 

Since recent Seattle weather has been wet, I will allow the seeds to really dry out on a paper towel on top of the refrigerator for a few days. 

C. viorna seeds after removing tails.

When I feel sure the seeds are dry, I will pour them into glycene or paper seed bags and place the bags in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and put it  in the fridge.  I also put one or two of the dehydration packets from old vitamin bottles inside to help keep the seeds dry.  Some clematis seed require a cold time prior to germination, so I just put them all in cold storage for a few months.  In spring I will plant them in seed starter mix and leave them outside to their own devices.  This process works well for me so far. 

But if you have a greenhouse or an inside seed starting area with enough light and warmth, you could pot some of your seed up and wait and watch all winter to see that first little tiny bright green leaf that will lighten your heart and bring a big smile to your face.  If you decide to start yours now, here is a link to a great website that goes into the nitty gritty of starting clematis from seed:  http://www.bcollingwood.com/index1.htm .  Otherwise, like me, wait til spring, when I will show you how I start my seeds.

Clematis Blooming in October

Did you know that our mild Pacific Northwest climate allows for at least one clematis to be blooming in every month of the year?  Here’s a taste of what I mean.  In my October garden, I have two late-blooming clematis at their peak of bloom, Sweet Autumn Clematis (C. terniflora) and C. ‘Madame Baron Veillard’.

Sweet Autumn Clematis in October

Sweet Autumn Clematis is a big plant (20-30 feet) with a multitude of small white wonderfully fragrant flowers.  In our climate this plant blooms in October, though in my Boston garden it bloomed for me in August and September. To be successful in the Pacific Northwest, this clematis needs to be sited in a warm spot.  That’s because the flowers require serious heat to set buds and shortening days to trigger them to open.  We don’t have any trouble providing the shortening days, but heat units can be a problem here.  Mine seems to love growing eight feet up a lattice onto a west-facing deck.

Clematis ‘Madame Baron Veillard’ is a lovely mauve flowered clematis that waits til September to even think about blooming in my garden.  It was named over 100 years ago for a French baroness who loved to garden. 

As you can see, it has a lovely  bloom that warms the heart just as the days seem to be getting shorter and gloomier.

Several other clematis are blooming in my garden now, including three that are especially showy.  The one on the right is Clematis ‘Sizaia Ptitsa’  — that’ll twist your tongue, huh?  A friend of mine just calls it Slice of Pizza, which is not too far off the Russian pronunciation.  This clematis has been blooming for over three months and is just beginning to show signs of winding down. 

Below is Clematis viorna, a species from the southeastern US with a sweet bell-shaped cream-and-lavendar bloom and wonderful seed heads.  It, too, has been blooming for months and is showing off here with the lavendar berries of a beauty berry.  Last, but definitely not least, is Clematis florida ‘Sieboldii’ (also below) – what a gorgeous flower!

C. viorna (species clematis)

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