32: Autumn 2013

Author: Joan Cooper

The Contrariness of Clematis

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The Contrariness of Clematis
Joan Cooper

I found the two articles on clematis in the last Newsletter very interesting. How many have died in this garden over the years I wouldn’t like to say. But how many I thought had died only to appear again. What perversity! But clematis do seem to have a wilful side. Some grow extremely well one year, flower their socks off and then scarcely make the effort to appear the next. Neglected plants do no better or worse than coddled ones. Clematis ‘Hagley Hybrid’ always flowers well and has never let me down (don’t speak too soon!).

Certainly the viticellas are the easiest and the texensis the most tricky, except for ‘Duchess of Albany’ who rampages about but has just a few sparse flowers. Clematis hendersonii, C. x durandii and ‘Petit Faucon’ as yet have never let me down, but I have only seen two or three flowers (sepals) on ‘Ernest Markham’ and I have had it for years and moved it, on our Expert’s advice, and no flowers again this year. Not one: Ernest, you will have to do better or go!

This year one of my viticellas, I think it was ‘Royal Velours’, exhibited distortion throughout the plant when it was in flower, (I should have taken a photograph); of course I consulted our Eminent Consultant Editor who advised, “Dig it up and burn it!” Well, I think I’m in for trouble now – I did dig it up but while it was waiting to be put on a bonfire I found it languishing, and decided to split it and isolate it and see what happens. How disobedient can you get! But I now have three plants that show no disease and I am watching carefully.

But all this angst is forgotten when ‘Betty Corning’ and ‘Błękitny Anioł’ (Blue Angel) come into bloom, one alongside the house wall and one over an arch. ‘Fair Rosamond’ has survived my wicked ways, even when I dug her up. She was ill-placed by a hamamelis and, guess what? She showed me who was boss by popping up again in the same place. But ‘Perle d’Azur’ disappeared for several years – I am sorry to say, into a camellia – but now emerges every year and gives me pleasure.

I do mulch with my own compost, I try hard to follow the planting rules, throw blood, fish and bone around each spring and give them bonfire ash when available. I know they are planted in odd places around the garden and do get forgotten, and are sometimes un-watered in drought times. Some are well supported but others are left to their own devices and ramble, then of course they get out of hand, but the problem is they seduce me. Their names, their colours, those unrealistic pictures. They are capricious, wayward, utterly beautiful and what garden could do without them?

First published in the Ranunculaceae Group Newsletter Spring 2012
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 32.
© Copyright for this article: Joan Cooper

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2013. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.

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