Clematis is the perfect plant to clamber over a fence or an arbor. Some gardeners even let clematis ramble over living trees and shrubs. Depending on what varieties are grown, bloom season for clematis could begin in early summer and continue right up until frost. Blossom colors range from white through red and blue, with all shades in between. Even after frost ends the floral show, well into fall and winter the vines are festooned with seedpods of silky, grayish threads.
So the question becomes not whether or not to plant clematis, but, rather, which ones to plant. A very rampant-growing clematis is the sweet autumn variety, whose fragrant blossoms first appear in late summer. This plant might foreshadow what lies ahead in winter with its profusion of dainty, white blooms covering the vines like newly fallen snow. Anemone clematis is another vigorous climber, growing 20 feet in a season and covered with medium-size, pink flowers early in the season.
Most clematis plants offered by nurseries are the Jackmanii hybrids, named for George Jackman who introduced the first hybrids a century ago. The major bloom period of the Jackman clematises is from early to late summer, but sporadic blooms continue to appear right up until frost. The flowers are large, a half-foot or more in diameter, and come in colors such as lavender-blue, rose-pink, purplish-red as well as deep, rich reds and blues.
Downy clematis and golden clematis are two nice-looking species. The downy has lavender flowers through the summer and the golden bears yellow flowers in late summer.
Not all clematises are twining and vining. The so-called solitary clematis grows only 2-to-4 feet tall, with blue or white, nodding, urn-shaped flowers appearing from early to midsummer. It does need some type of support to keep it off the ground.
All types of clematis require similar care in the garden. They need rich, well-drained soil with a thick, organic mulch so their roots keep cool. Full sun is acceptable, but a bit of shade is better. Morning sun only is ideal.
Annual pruning is usually necessary. Cut to the ground those clematis that blossom early right after they finish flowering. Cut late flowering ones before growth begins in spring. Vines that flower all season need only light annual pruning.
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