Clematis: The “queen of the flowering vines.”

Greg Stevens

A number of years ago, I had the wonderful fortune of visiting a garden called Ninfa.  It was a garden just south of Rome, Italy that was very unique in many ways.  There were many things that I loved about this garden and I have always said it is one of my favorite gardens.  One of things that I was particular impressed with was how they had clematis planted at the base of a few small trees, and the clematis was trained to go up the tree and it weaved its way out on some of the limbs, looking as if the flowers were from the branches of the tree.   

There are several kinds of clematis and the size of the different ones varies considerably.   There are some that are quite vigorous growers and can reach a height of 20 to 30 feet.  Many of the hybrids that you see in garden centers with large flowers grow to around 8 to 12 feet and the smaller species grow to 2 to 5 feet tall.  I understand that Proven Winners offers a bush clematis ‘Stand by Me’ that I want to try some time since I have never grown a bush clematis.    

When planting a clematis, be very gentle.  The roots, crown, and emerging vine can easily be broken.

When planting clematis, there are two things I have heard over the years that you need to remember.  Clematis like “their head in the sun and their feet in the shade.”   Sun helps them have a profusion of blooms and planting by a bush or some structure that will shade the roots is ideal.  Second, clematis growth rate is “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap.”  They spend the first year putting down deep roots and once established, clematis are strong growers. 

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