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)

Let the Blooming Begin!

Clematis blooming has begun in earnest at my house.  My Clematis alpinas and macropetalas are lighting up the garden with their blooms!  I really should plant more of them — what a happy boost they are in the spring.  The first to open was Clematis Blue Dancer–again!  It was the first to bloom last year, too.

Clematis Alpinas and Macropetalas (Atragene group)

Clematis alpina 'Blue Dancer', the first to Bloom!

Clematis Blue Dancer, First to Bloom!

Clematis Markham’s Pink in bud.

Markham's Pink

Here’s Clematis Cecile, first in bud, then newly open, and finally fully open.

Clematis Cecile in Bud

Clematis Cecile in Bud

Cecile Just Opening

Cecile Just Opening

 

Cecile Fully Open

Cecile Fully Open

Next up is Clematis Jacqueline du Pre draped over a daphne.

C. Jacqueline du Pre with Daphne

C. Jacqueline du Pre with Daphne

Here are two photos of Clematis Pauline.  I’m not sure why the second photo is so oddly intense, but I thought I’d show you anyway.  The blooms do present with a luminous color.

Clematis Pauline

Clematis Pauline

 

Clematis Pauline showing off her luminosity (maybe a little too much)

Clematis Pauline showing off her luminosity (maybe a little too much)

Clematis Joe Zary is a new one for me — I got it last summer from Silver Star Nursery, so it’s quite young still.

Clematis Joe Zary

Clematis Joe Zary

 Pruning Group 2 Clematis Already Showing Flower Buds!

Below are photos of the buds of several of my May/June Large-Flowered bloomers.  Ah, the anticipation!  Last year Will Baron and Fair Rosamond were neck-and-neck to be the first in this group to bloom.  We’ll see how this year goes.  Speaking of Will Baron, you may have read my earlier post about how I was going to be brave and cut back three of the old woody vines on this clematis to renew it.  Hrmph–time went by too fast with so many things to do and Will Baron developed lots of buds before I had a chance to prune it.  With all those buds, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  My new plan is to cut out the three old vines AFTER it blooms.  We’ll see how I do.

Clematis First Lady in bud

Clematis First Lady in bud

Clematis Will Baron in bud -- I chickened out on pruning out the old canes.

Clematis Will Baron in bud — I chickened out on cutting back the old canes.

Clematis Vyvyan Pennell

Clematis Vyvyan Pennell

Clematis Fair Rosamond

Clematis Fair Rosamond

How are the clematis in your garden doing?

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!

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