Clematis armandii Showing Off in Seattle

C. armandii blooming in Seattle in early February

C. armandii blooming in Seattle in early February

Blooming away in a pot at the nursery.

Blooming away in a pot at the nursery.

I was startled one sunny day early this month to see my daughter’s Clematis armandii already in bloom.  This clematis, also known as the evergreen clematis or the leatherleaf clematis because of its long leathery evergreen leaves, usually waits until mid-March to bloom here in Seattle.  This year’s very mild winter, though, coaxed it into bloom more than a month early.

Just a few days later, I found it blooming in a pot in my local nursery.  And right after that, I saw dozens blooming at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show!  Of course, they were all very young plants forced into bloom for our pleasure.  Now they are blooming all over Seattle.

This clematis was originally brought to the West from China by well-known plant hunter Ernest Wilson in the early part of the last century and was named for French botanist and missionary Father Armand David.   We have many, many plants today originally from China carrying the names wilsonii, armandii, and davidii in honor of these two men.

C. armandii is somewhat tender, being hardy only to Zone 7, but when happy, it can get huge — as much as 30′ long.  It’s a stunner in bloom, a sheet of white flowers tinged in pink and wafting a wonderful fragrance on a sunny spring day.

C. armandii 'Red Heart'

C. armandii ‘Red Heart’

Personally, I don’t grow this one, at least not yet.  For one thing, it is so big!  For another, evergreen does not necessarily mean ever beautiful.  I have often seen C. armandii looking like a big nest of ratty brown leaves.  The best way to avoid this unpleasantness is to cut it back significantly right after it blooms in spring.  This will give the clematis plenty of time during late spring and summer to throw fresh new vines and set new flowers for the following year.

The one C. armandii that I would like to grow when it finally comes to market is C. armandii ‘Red Heart’ (see photos above and below).  This unusual new clematis has dark reddish-pink stamens in the center surrounded by pristine white tepals.  It was bred by hybridizer Ton Hannink of The Netherlands, who kindly gave me permission to show you his photos of this beautiful but not yet commercially available clematis.  To die for, eh?

C. armandii 'Red Heart' Close-Up

C. armandii ‘Red Heart’ Close-Up

March Clematis of the Month

None of my clematis earned Clematis of the Month for either January or February, and almost not for March either.  But one of the three clematis I ordered from Brushwood Nursery arrived in late March — IN BLOOM!  And lovely blooms they are, too.

Clematis Sugar Sweet -- Blue

Clematis Sugar Sweet — Blue

Clematis of the Month — March:
Clematis Sugar Sweet Blue

This lovely clematis is a new introduction from Ton Hannink of The Netherlands.  He’s a clematis friend whom I know through the International Clematis Society.  This clematis and it’s sister Clematis Sugar Sweet Lilac are both strongly fragrant.  Even my little one with just two early blooms flaunted its perfume!  Because the vines will grow only 6′ – 9′, mine will look  great in a pot on the deck, where I can enjoy the wafting fragrance.  Another plus — they are pruning group c, which means pruning is a cinch — just whack ’em back to 1′ – 3′ sometime between late fall and early spring (probably wait til early spring in colder climates).  You can get one for yourself, just click here.

I actually ordered three clematis from Brushwood this year.  The other two are Clematis Etoile Rose and Clematis Mrs Robert Brydon.  The three pots are sitting together in the photo above, so some of the leaves are belong to the other two clematis.

Clematis Etoile Rose versus Clematis Duchess of Albany

C. Etoile Rose is a texensis hybrid.  C. texensis is a species clematis that grows on riverbanks in Texas and has small red urn-shaped blooms.  Click here for more information on C. texensis.  Since the late 1800s hybridizers have been using this species to bring red into the clematis color palette.  In fact, almost every red or dark pink summer-blooming clematis has C. texensis in its background.  In addition to C. Etoile Rose, C. texensis hybrids include C. Duchess of Albany, C. Princess Diana, C. Ville de Leon, C. Sir Trevor Lawrence, and many others.  I thought I already had C. Etoile Rose, but recently realized that what I really have is C. Duchess of Albany.  Both have pink tulip-shaped blossoms, but those on C. Etoile Rose are downward-facing, while the flowers of C. Duchess of Albany are upward-facing.  Mine were definitely upward-facing, so, of course, I had to purchase a C. Etoile Rose as soon as possible.

Downward-Facing Blooms of C. Etoile Rose

Downward-Facing Blooms of C. Etoile Rose

The Upward-Facing Blooms of C. Duchess of Albany

The Upward-Facing Blooms of C. Duchess of Albany
























clematis_mrs_robert_brydonClematis Mrs Robert Brydon

I had heard of C. Mrs Robert Brydon but had never seen it in person until I saw it in a vase on the table at a garden luncheon.  At first I thought the small flowers might be from some kind of Thalictrum, aka meadow rue, which is not surprising since Thalictrum and Clematis are kissing cousins.  I finally realized that in spite of it’s small size it just had to be a clematis!  I was right.  This one is not a climber — it prefers instead to lounge about on whatever is convenient.  Can’t wait to see it blooming in the garden — hmm, what shall I provide for it to lounge upon?


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