Adaptable plants which take up little space and require little maintenance but which also have beautiful flowers are surely a must for any garden – and clematis fit this bill perfectly!
Their ability to clamber up trellis, cover fences and walls, and be trained over pergolas and arches make them invaluable for vertical gardening, and they can also be grown in pots and containers to create a patio focal point. But don’t feel obliged to provide a structure, as clematis will also happily scramble through supporting shrubs and trees, giving added interest and colour to your existing garden plants. And don’t worry if you’re not looking for climbers, as there are non-climbing and herbaceous varieties available too, plus several dwarf and compact varieties which look fantastic grown in tall pots and left to trail gracefully over the edges.
The flowers are also wonderfully varied, from delicate nodding bells to bold blooms that are, quite literally, the size of tea plates and everything in between – all available in a choice of gorgeous colours – and in a range of varieties that will provide year-round colour and interest.
Top tips for growing clematis…
Clematis like cool feet and hot heads – so be sure to plant them so that the soil around the roots is shaded to keep it cool, and that the shoots can be trained into a lighter, brighter space above.
You should always plant Summer-flowering clematis deeper than the level at which they are growing in their pots. Dig your planting hole deep enough so that the top of the root ball sits 7-10cm below the soil surface, and then bury the base of the stems with soil. This should help your plants to re-grow should they suffer from clematis wilt.
Top clematis choices
For early Summer – Nelly Moser:
Easy to grow and produces distinctive striped flowers 6-8in wide from May to late June, with a bonus second flush in mid-August. Planted in a shady spot, the cheery blooms will last for weeks – pruning group 2.
For late Summer – Jackmanii:
This gorgeous clematis copes well in a north-facing site and produces a mass of large, velvety, deep purple flowers from mid-Summer to early Autumn – pruning group 3.
For Autumn – Bill MacKenzie:
A wonderful variety with lovely yellow, nodding flowers from July to November, followed by wispy seed heads. As it can grow to around 15ft, it’s not suitable for containers but is excellent to scramble through a supporting tree or with another, robust climber – pruning group 3.
For Winter – Winter Beauty:
This variety offers welcome colour from December to February with creamy-white, nodding, urn-shaped flowers and bronze-tinted evergreen foliage. It is suitable for full sun or partial shade and borderline hardy, so would be a great choice for sheltered walls and fences – pruning group 1.
Pruning – as easy as 1, 2, 3!
As far as pruning is concerned, requirements are determined by one of the three groups into which clematis are divided:
- Group 1 – like Winter Beauty or Armandii varieties need little or no pruning – simply remove damaged, dead or diseased stems after flowering.
- Group 2 – like Nelly Moser flower in the Summer on a framework of shoots produced in the previous year. Once flowering has finished, prune flowered stems back to a set of healthy buds or a side shoot below the faded blooms.
- Group 3 – like Jackmanii flower on the current season’s growth and should be cut back to a pair of strong buds before they begin active growth about 8 inches above the ground in Spring. The previous year’s growth can be removed.
The supporting role…
There are lots of great planting partners for clematis, including other climbers, shrubs and small trees. Our suggestions include…
Golden Hop – which provides wonderful limey-yellow foliage all season and offers a perfect contrast to clematis flowers. Even easier if planted with a group 3 clematis as both plants can be cut down to strong buds before growth begins in Spring.
Roses – the pairing of clematis with climbing and rambling roses is a garden classic, as the clematis grows through the rose without over-powering it and covering bare rose stems too.
Wisteria – has a dramatic albeit relatively short flowering season, but the foliage is good through until Autumn and therefore offers a great backdrop for bold clematis flowers.
Shrubs – clematis can brighten up foliage shrubs such as conifers and give hedges a new dimension, or they can provide a ‘double-flower bonus’ when planted with early flowering shrubs such as camellia.
Of course these are just a few suggestions and there are no end of creative possibilities, we’ve only touched the tip of the clematis iceberg!
Now that you know how to care for these wonderful plants, check out our collection in-store – and let your imagination go clematis-crazy!