The current weather is ideal for planting colourful clematis. If your garden is small or you just want to create more privacy, make the most of your vertical space by wrapping your patio with climbing clematis. Here’s how…
The thing that’s great about clematis is their versatility. Whether you’re looking for big, blowsy blooms or small dainty flowers, there’s a whole range to choose from, and while some will sit pretty in a pot, others will happily climb to the top of a tree, sprinkling the branches with splashes of colour.
It’s a good idea to think long term when buying clematis, so choose a few that are flowering or in bud now, but also select a late summer-flowering type, and a few for spring colour too. Raymond Evison’s has some beautiful blooms. The multi-award-winning king of clematis, Raymond spends his life developing new and more beautiful forms, and his plants are among the best you can buy.
My favourites include ‘The Countess of Wessex’, which has large pale pink flowers with a subtle stripe down the centre of each petal, and grows to about a metre or so, ideal for climbing a tripod in a large pot on patio. It also blooms for most of the summer.
Equally beautiful is ‘Alaina’ (pictured top), which is a little taller and would scramble up a trellis attached to a wall or used as a screen to shade a seating area.
You could also try combining a couple of clematis that bloom at the same time. Don’t you just love this pastel duet of ‘Pistachio’ and ‘Shimmer’? Both grow to around 2.5m in height and would look a treat scaling a house wall (attach some horizontal wires to the brickwork for the stems to cling to) or scrambling up a pergola or archway at the entrance to your garden. Remember you will find beautiful arches and tripods at ACHICA over the next few weeks.
These are all summer flowering clematis, although they will produce another flush of flowers later in early autumn too. But the true stars of autumn are the tangutica clematis, which are studded with flowers from September to November, and then form fluffy seedheads that presist throughout the winter. Clematis ‘Bill MacKenzie’ is a perfect choice, but be warned, it will go a bit crazy and cover a large area in no time at all.
However, if you have a wall to decorate, it’s a great option, and will smother it with dainty bell-shaped yellow blooms followed by those fabulous seedheads, which always make the Truffula trees in Dr Suess books spring to mind, until you cut all the stems down to the ground in early spring.
Just as you do this is spring, there’s more colour and scent to enjoy as Clematis armandii starts to flower. This evergreen is pretty vigorous so give it some elbow room to climb a wall or tree, and grow it where you can revel in the fabulous perfume produced by masses of clear white flowers. Some books say it’s slightly tender but it has sailed through winters when temperatures dipped below -12°C in my Hertfordshire garden.
Another large climber is the scented Clematis montana, or if you haven’t much space, opt for the more compact Clematis alpina or macropetala types. Their little nodding blue, pink, white or red flowers appear in early spring, along with the daffodils and crocuses. Remember not to cut these down in spring, or you will lose all the blooms – just give it a gentle tidy after flowering if the stems have become congested.
Most clematis enjoy full sun or light shade and a fairly rich soil, so dig some well-rotted manure into the soil where you plan to plant. Also provide a tripod, wires or a trellis that you can tie the stems to – once the clematis is established its twinning leaf stalks will cling on to these supports without your help. And if the rain continues as it has done, there will be no need to water, but if by some miracle July and August are hot and sunny, ply it with a full watering can or two every week. One proviso, check your pots even if it has been raining, and water them if the compost feels dry.
Check out the rose arches in the Agriframes promotion at ACHICA, which would be ideal for growing clematis.
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Zia Allaway, Garden Expert
View all posts by Zia Allaway, Garden Expert