With their winding ways, clematis are statement makers in Tulsa gardens.
The large blue flowers of clematis “H. F. Young” enhance a lamppost in a midtown Tulsa neighborhood.
Clematis are the most noble and spectacular of all the flowering vines in the garden and are often referred to as “queen of the vines.”
Most are deciduous and have a long life — up to 50 years. The large flowering hybrids generally reach a height of 8-12 feet, while the herbaceous (non-vining types) only grow 2-5 feet tall.
An adage about their growth is: “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap.” Once established, they are strong growers.
The hybrids’ ornamental features are primarily their large flowers ranging from 4-10 inches in diameter. Each cultivar produces multitudes of white, blue, violet, purple, pink, red or bi-colored blooms.
The flowers come in many shapes: small blooms in loose clusters; bell- or urn-shaped flowers; or flat and open flowers like the hybrids.
Many of the clematis species are fragrant, but most of the hybrids are not. And after the petals fall, a feathery ball-shaped seed structure develops with a seed attached to each of the plumes in the structure. These are wonderful in dried arrangements.
Plant clematis from container-grown specimens by digging a hole two times as large as its pot and twice as deep, and make sure the site has good drainage. Backfill the hole with compost or Canadian sphagnum peat moss, then carefully tease the roots from the outside edges of the soil ball. Plant them with the plant’s crown 1-2 inches below the soil level to allow regeneration of new growth in case of stem damage or wilt disease. A soil pH of 6.5-6.8 is recommended for success.
Water the plant and apply a 2-inch organic mulch around the base. Mulching helps keep the roots cool and moist, which ties in with another sage saying: “Heads in the sun and feet in the shade.”
Water deeply once a week in dry periods. For feeding, use a 4-6-2 fertilizer (or the organic Rose-Tone 4-3-2 fertilizer) monthly from March through September, except for the time the plant is in full bud before blooming.
The most serious problem is fungal stem rot called clematis wilt in which part of the plant collapses and dies. Treat the plant by destroying the infected parts, and it will usually regrow by the second year from the buds planted lower in the soil.
Pruning depends on its grouping and flowering timeframe.
Group A: Flowers in spring on last year’s growth. Prune moderately after flowering, but no later than the end of July.
Group B: Flowers in early summer on last year’s growth and later on stems of new growth. Prune back stems lightly in February or March to the topmost pair of large green buds.
Group C: Flowers in late summer or early fall on the last 2-3 feet of current season’s growth. In February or March prune each stem to a height of 2-3 feet from the ground.
Planting clematis on lamp or mailbox posts is traditional, but they also can embellish trellises, arbors, pergolas, fences and walls. They must have some small diameter surface, like wire or plant stems to clasp for support. In England and Europe, they are often grown with climbing roses, through shrubs and even on trees.
Local nurseries will have container-grown plants at this time. A good mail-order resource is Brushwood Nursery in Athens, Georgia. Visit www.gardenvines.com for more information. Linda Beutler’s books are some of the best resources — “Gardening with Clematis: Design and Cultivation” and “The Plant Lover’s Guide to Clematis.”
Some recommended cultivars for our area:
Deep blue-mauve fading to pale blue.
Evergreen with large leaves and vanilla-scented flowers.
Magenta or fuschia color.
Large white flowers, chocolate brown center.
An old favorite, easily grown, with dark purple-blue flowers.
Ruby red flowers with cream stamens.
Pale rosy-mauve with carmine midrib in petals and maroon anthers.
Deep purple with red stripes.
Nice red flowers.
8-inch white petals with purple-pink stamens.
Rich purple-blue with white and red stamens.
Pale small lavender “bells;” all the texensis hybrids are resistant to wilt.
Duchess of Albany
Deep rose; pink small bells.
Bright pink; small upright flowers.
Ville de Lyon