Gardening with Clematis: Design and Cultivationby Linda Beutler
Clematis are among the more versatile and diverse plants for any garden; few flowers can fill so many garden niches, from specimen plants to dwarf perennials, or container selections to multistory vines. Wherever they are found, their blooms never fail to induce rapture and awe. The carefully chosen clematis can't be equaled when planted in the right situation and
Clematis are among the more versatile and diverse plants for any garden; few flowers can fill so many garden niches, from specimen plants to dwarf perennials, or container selections to multistory vines. Wherever they are found, their blooms never fail to induce rapture and awe. The carefully chosen clematis can't be equaled when planted in the right situation and pruned in the right way, but horticultural horrors can ensue when beginners (or experts) overreach and force plants where they do not belong. Linda Beutler provides instructions for newcomers and master gardeners alike on plant selection, cultivation, and design, and debunks a few myths along the way. With a distinct nod to the wonderful traditions for growing clematis in the British Isles and Europe, she may be the first author to provide a distinctly American perspective on the subject. Filled with 115 beautiful photographs and the incalculable wisdom of hard-won experience, Gardening with Clematis will be required reading for all adventurous gardeners.
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Once you have decided on the function you want your clematis to serve, as well as their color and texture, you can begin the search for the species and cultivars that will meet your needs. If you are new to clematis, it is best to start with those vines recommended as being easiest to grow. You will see several cultivars and species repeated on more than one of the lists throughout this book, including a list of my ten favorites for beginners at the end of this chapter. These are your guides to which varieties are most accommodating and rewarding. If the clematis that strikes your fancy sounds like a challenge, however, do not underestimate the power of beginner's luck!
For now, let's start with the basics: selecting your new plant. When visiting your local garden center or specialty nursery, the choice of clematis will be overwhelming, and it's easy to have your head turned by a pretty face. It is best for your peace of mind to go forth armed with a list. If you find a plant you've been wanting, carefully examine the specimens offered for sale. Select a plant in the largest size pot you can afford, and try to avoid plants in small pots or on sale bare-rooted in boxes. If the plant you pick up does not show new roots through the drainage holes, or shows other signs of being recently repotted, pass it by.
Examine all the plants of the variety you're shopping for to see how many stems are emerging from the soil — the more, the merrier. If I have the choice of two plants — one about to bloom atop a frail stem and one with several stems and lush growth but no bloom — experience has taught me to opt for the multistemmed plant. This is the vine that will reap the greatest rewards in the long run. When it comes to clematis, the instant gratification of ready blooms can distract from the fact that you may have selected a fragile plant with a less than robust root system, a plant that may be easily damaged during transport and transplanting, a plant that may be more vulnerable to pests and disease and is less able to make a quick recovery.
Sometimes you must select a plant with just one shoot holding up the top growth, this being the only choice to get the cultivar you want. Plan to prune it rather hard when you get it home, even if you cannot plant it right away. At garden centers and nurseries, clematis are usually grown in pots with a 3-ft.-tall hardwood or bamboo stake affixed inside. Remove any growth stretching or drooping beyond the stake. This may mean cutting off blooms and buds. If you have reason to believe the plant is misnamed, as unfortunately happens from time to time, let it bloom before pruning it. Assure yourself of the plant's identity, then cut it back, leaving three to four nodes on the stem before planting. (Nodes are the joints or junctions where the leaves emerge from the main stem.) When you've bought a plant with extremely lush top growth, feel confident about pruning it down to only
Meet the Author
Linda Beutler has been the curator of the Rogerson Clematis Collection since 2007, and in 2013, she was elected the first woman and first American president of the International Clematis Society. She is an active member of the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon and many other garden and plant societies. She lectures nationally on numerous gardening topics and is a garden writer for both local and national publications, including Organic Gardening, Pacific Horticulture, and Portrait of Portland.
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