Five reasons why you should grow these amazing climbing plants
Clematis are a large and versatile flowering plant group. Most of them are climbing plants, which naturally twine around twigs, trellis or other plants to grow up towards the sun. They are great for adding flowering fun to boring fences or growing up an obelisk or pergola to give height in the garden. A few spread along the ground instead and make lovely long-flowering ground cover. I have around 20 clematis growing in my garden – and can always find room for more! Here's why:
1) You can find a clematis to flower in any season.
There are literally hundreds that will flower in spring and summer- take your pick. In my garden I would particularly mention clematis viticella Madame Julia Correvon, a gorgeous pink-toned red which has abundant flowers from July to September – shown here flowering in contrast with rich purple Etoile Violette. Also there’s the clear china blue of Prince Charles and the candy-stripe fun of Nelly Moser which has been a gardeners’ favourite for over a hundred years.
You can also choose your autumn-flowering clematis from quite a large group – I particularly enjoy the golden clematis Helios, which flowers right up til the frosts. And some of the loveliest, delicate, evergreen clematis reserve their beauty for the winter months.
Clematis cirrhosa Freckles is one of my favourite winter clematis, a shy evergreen with a creamy bell flower marked with maroon stipples.
I have this growing in a small tree near my kitchen window where I can see it when I’m doing the washing up. Now we’re in spring I am currently enjoying clematis alpina Frances Rivis which opens up its violet-blue petals in surprise as the sun warms it.
2) Clematis flower in just about every colour - and some come in stripes or blush shades too. Whether you want bold colours, or subtle tints you can find something to suit you. One of my current favourites is clematis Rebecca, a beautiful clear red which we have recently combined in a scheme with tangerine climbing rose Crown Princess Margareta , plus evergreen cream-flowered clematis Fragrant Oberon which will, we hope, live up to its name!
Winding up a simple obelisk they will provide interest all year round. I also love some of the many velvety, sumptuous clematis, such as clematis Etoile Violette with its star-shaped violet flowers which darken as they age.
And not forgetting the simplicity of white/cream flowered clematis such as delightful Beautiful Bride or the exquisitely-scented vigorous evergreen clematis Armandii.
3) They’re generally easy to grow. Some folk will tell you that clematis are fussy plants, but this really is a myth as they are not particularly demanding. True, they like to be planted deeply and have their feet shaded- but if planted in the garden you can just put a piece of slate round, or mulch deeply, or just ensure the surrounding plants shade them at the bottom. Like the majority of plants grown in the UK, they ideally should be planted into moist but well-drained soil, and given an annual mulch of organic matter such as garden compost.
Clematis’ reputation for fussiness comes because you need to follow a particular pruning pattern based on when in the year they flower. But it’s not difficult to get the hang of this – and some clematis don’t need pruning at all. If you have clematis in your own garden, and find they don’t flower for you, this may be because you’ve been pruning them at the wrong time of year.
Follow the advice given by the RHS and you’ll be fine!
4) They don’t all need full sun. Lots of us have gardens which are shaded by buildings or trees, at least part of the day, and the good news is that there are clematis which like this situation. In fact, I have found that some clematis – such as Perle d-Azur, a large-flowered blue clematis – tend to fade if put in full sun, so need the shade to show off to best advantage.
Nelly Moser is another clematis that does best in some shade. Its flowers are the size of your hand and it will grow to around 3m x 3m if allowed to stretch out on a wall.
5) They flower for ages. Some clematis are sprinters, flowering just for six or eight weeks. This is fine – we don’t want to get bored after all. But others are like marathon runners, generously keeping on offering us their blooms for months.
I’d recommend the exquisite pale blue clematis Cezanne which flowers intermittently all the way through from May to October! Or there’s the pale pink regal Countess of Wessex which will look good in a patio pot all summer.
Or by contrast clematis Bourbon, with its arresting red and pink-striped flowers from May to September.
Clematis really are one of the most enjoyable plants for the garden. If you’d like to try growing them you should find a reasonable choice in your local garden centre, but to see the whole wonderful world of clematis(!) try a specialist grower such as Taylors Clematis. I’m sure you’ll be hooked!
If you’d like to see some more examples of the clematis we used in our planting designs here at North Leeds Garden Design, have a look at some of our Pinterest boards such as https://www.pinterest.com/nlgardendesign/mood-board-for-gk/ or https://www.pinterest.com/nlgardendesign/oriental-opulence-for-af-purples-and-blues-pink-an/.