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Colourful clematis for your garden

Taking a sunny wander around my September garden this morning, coffee mug in hand, on a whim I decided to count up how many clematis I have in flower; I was surprised to find I have ten of these beauties giving me joy at the moment, despite the recent spells of up-and-down weather.

I don’t know if there actually is a word ‘clematophile’ but I am definitiely a lover of clematis. So many beautiful colours and shapes, from tiny stars to blowsy in-your-face dinner plates, and any colour you like except orange or black. These versatile climbing plants are generally easy to grow provided you pay attention to selecting the right one for your location, and the soil is moist, and between them they can offer you flowers pretty much all year round. I can’t think why I’ve not blogged about them before!

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Clematis viticella Mme Julia Correvon, twining with golden hop

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Clematis alpina Frankie

Spring Cheer

Most of our earliest flowering clematis are very low maintenance as they don’t need any pruning. Providing much-needed April cheer they are mainly available in whites, blues and purples plus a few pinks – teaming well with spring bulbs including hyacinths, narcissi and early tulips.  I love the alpinas, with their prettily-shaped leaves and nodding flowers.

This picture of clematis alpina ‘Frankie’ was taken at our award-winning show garden at Harrogate Spring Flower Show, where we used tensioned wires on a frame as a screen.

Winter bells

Is it possible to have a clematis in flower every month of the year?  Well, yes!  There are several that flower over the winter here in Yorkshire, and they’re evergreen too.

My choice would be clematis clarkeana ‘Winter Beauty’.  Its plentiful pure white flowers look just like tiny white church bells and are perfect for the Christmas season.  Grow it in a sunny spot, somewhere where you can see it easily from the house so you can enjoy it on those miserable cold days.

I couldn’t find a picture from my own garden so here is one taken by Taylors Clematis:

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Clematis clarkeana Winter Beauty

Perfect for pots

Clematis must have moist roots so growing them in a pot has until recently been considered a bit tricky.  But there are now some great choices for your patio, specially selected so they flower right from the base but only reach a metre or so high. My current favourites include large-flowered lilac ‘Zara’ and unusual scarlet red ‘Nubia’. Both these clematis will flower from May to October – really good value!   Like any plant in a pot these clematis do rely on you to water and feed them .  But unlike summer bedding they will come back to delight you year after year. 

Screen that fence

Many of us only have a small garden – or perhaps just a balcony.  Clematis work really hard to give you flowers on vertical surfaces such as a bare fence or wall, or equally will help cover up an ugly feature such as a shed.  Some clematis can reach 3-4m high, so match your clematis height with the height of your fence or outbuilding and you will not have to keep trimming it back.

This photo shows clematis alba luxurians smothering the cold north wall of my garage with its unusual white and green-blotched flowers.  This is a real trooper of a clematis as it will flower happily in almost sunless conditions and simply carries on going from mid-summer til the weather turns cold.

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Clematis alba luxurians camouflaging garage

No fence – no problem!

While most clematis are climbing plants and need support to grow upwards, some are herbaceous and prefer to scramble gently through a robust shrub, or swag over the side of a raised bed.

Or you can select one of the shorter climbing varieties and grow it up an obelisk, arbour or archway.  This is clematis viticella ‘Etoile Violette’ teamed beautifully with the golden hop Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’ in my own garden.

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Clematis viticella Etoile Violette on arch

Scented stars

While not the most strongly-scented plants, there are some summer-flowering clematis that can add a subtle layer of scent to your garden vibe. Dark red ‘Sweet Summer Love’ or delicate white ’Sweet Sensation’ both flower through the summer; plant near your seating area to get the full benefit – or use as part of an archway display so you smell its perfume as you wander through.

Success with clematis

Clematis are pretty straightforward to grow provided you:

  • plant them nice and deep in soil that does not dry out;
  • give them support such as tensioned wires, trellis or a garden obelisk;
  • regularly tie the vigorous summer-flowering ones onto their support, as near to the horizontal as you can, so that they make a generous display rather than just heading straight up.
  • if growing in a pot, water and feed frequently.

This photo shows pretty little ‘Rosamund’ growing on a sunny wall in my garden.  She is happy to grow twining through a mix of ivy and summer jasmine and even sometimes gets matey with adjoining pale-blue clematis ‘Prince Charles’.

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Clematis Rosalind

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Clematis Prince Charles

Where to buy clematis

We are really lucky in the UK that we have so many fabulous plant nurseries from which to select our plants. While garden centres are fine, it’s at nurseries that you can find detailed advice from somebody who really knows their stuff and is passionate about what they grow and sell. I also like to shop local where I can. So I want to give a shout-out to Taylor’s Clematis in south Yorkshire. With many RHS Chelsea gold medals to their name, Chris & Suzy work hard to propagate stunning new varieties, and only send out really well grown plants.

This pic is clematis texensis ‘Princess Diana’ which twines up a tree to about 1.8m in my garden, nodding its elegant soft pink bells from June to September – delightful!

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Clematis Texensis Princess Diana

Do consider whether you can find room for at least one of these gorgeous and generally trouble-free climbing beauties.  

FYI when I did a full count of mine, it turns out I have twenty one varieties 😊 

To see some examples of North Leeds Garden Design’s garden projects go to our website  – or join us on FB or Instagram to see what we’re up to! 

And as it’s time to plant bulbs ready for them to flower next spring – read more at our blog In praise of the daffodil