Thursday, 10 July 2014

Clematis catalogue fever

A sister dropped by yesterday, one who takes gardening as seriously as I do. It’s a joy to pore over a catalogue together and work out which clematis will flower when, to have flowers – nearly – all year long with these beauties, but more importantly (to us, I hasten to add) which colours will look divine together, she with her small pergola outside a room decorated in yellow and blue; me with my 2 new metal tripods, each placed centrally in the cut-flower beds. (Cane ones looked terrific here for years until they collapsed.)
I’ve always loved the little Clematis viticella hybrids (like Clematis viticella alba luxurians, below) which bloom in late spring and summer, so I’m planning a couple of white and lilac ones on the tripod in the semicircular bed amongst my pink and white cut-flowers – paperwhite jonquils, Ismene, belladonna lilies and liliums. Adding Clematis texensis `Etoile Rose’ (my aunt’s favourite, incidentally) for sweet little autumn (and spring) flowers will extend the season.

The other tripod might look quite different because I’ve fallen in love with some of the large flowered jackmanii hybrid clematis (top) in the violet range - `Rhapsody’ (indigo), `General Sikorski’ (mauve) and I will add `Huldine (white); these bloom (I read) from spring to autumn. Here they will look down on blue Dutch iris, yellow jonquils, and – as the only place for them – red Jacobean lilies (Sprekelia) which flower for Christmas.
Looking at my new, winter-bare tripods (below), I might add C. cirrhosa `Lansdown Gem’ – an old favourite for burgundy bells in the coldest months, but there’s loads of white jonquils at their feet, too. I get tempted to pick them all; so why do I want my picking garden to look nice? I suppose I want every corner, every niche, of this garden, to be beautiful, all the time. It’s a big ask!
I already have a Clematis jackmanii hybrid, a delicious soft mauve one, growing up a dogwood tree, striking in spring. I think it’s one of the best. Unfortunately, long ago I told my sister its name (`Prince Charles’) and…she knows I want Australia to be a republic. Lots of fodder for good-natured teasing, but then, also a source for great lines (`Yes, Prince Charles is up that tree’…).
Not all clematis are climbers and it’s tempting to buy a couple of the new, interesting hybrids of herbaceous Clematis integrifolia (1m high with blue or violet flowers); a small one for clambering over a statue; 2 short herbaceous pink ones for my silver and raspberry bed, which would then need pretty little growing frames…No, stop! Maybe just climbers this time.
My sister pointed out to me Clematis ternifolia which, my catalogue says, has `fragrant white flowers…autumn to winter’. I am running out of room, other than, as they say, `tossing them up a tree’ (planted first, at the foot), an informal style I like. I’ve thought about colours this year. Maybe I’ll think about seasons next year.

Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (

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