Clematis: Queen of the Vines

Friday, July 1st, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons can be pruned now without sacrificing next years’ bloom. Ask at your nursery if you need help.
    • Paint trunks of young fruit trees with Tree Trunk White. This will keep the soft bark from sun-burning which leaves cracks for borer insects, the most common cause of death of young apple trees.
    • Petunias, in bright pink, red and purple, will add beauty and color to sunny borders all through the summer.
    • Earwigs are out and about and hungry. Control them with the new “Sluggo Plus”, which has the natural, bacteria-based spinosad added to the original iron phosphate formula.
    • Finish planting the summer vegetable garden. Seeds of early corn, and beans can go directly in the soil and plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash, cucumbers and basil can be set out.

Clematis: Queen of the Vines

Clematis are the aristocrats of the flowering vines. With over 300 species and many hybrids, this group of mostly woody, climbing vines has a lot to offer the gardener.

Their flowers span the color spectrum. The large-flowered cultivars range in color from rich reds, purples, and blues to pale pink and white. The smaller flowered “montana” varieties cover themselves with masses of pink or white fragrant blooms early in the season. And the evergreen clematis, with its profusion of starry-white blooms, carries a heavy fragrance.

There is a clematis to enhance any garden, no matter how large or small. Some varieties, if left to wander, will easily grow to 30 feet, while others mature at 6 to 8 feet. Many hybrid varieties mature at 8 to 12 feet, and are stunning on a fan trellis.

Clematis do not climb by tendrils, but instead by gently twining their leaf petioles around nearby supports, including plant stems, branches, wires, small poles and themselves. They do not cling to walls and, without support, will ramble until they find something suitable to climb on. In the wild, clematis are often found growing at the woods’ edge, where their tops can reach full sun and their roots remain in the shade.

Selecting the right place for clematis is important for its success. Clematis thrive where the vines receive sun for at least six hours a day with cool, moist soil for the roots. Morning sun is preferable. Plant vines in the shade of a small shrub or plant a groundcover or perennial over the root area to shade the soil.

Clematis can be planted deep and actually benefit from having the crown buried up to four inches below the surface of the soil. This helps the plant recover if the top of the plant is damaged, by sending up shoots from dormant buds below the soil.

Begin feeding clematis in early spring, as soon as the new shoots start to grow. A generous mulch of garden compost mixed with well-rotted manure is a good recipe. You can substitute a rose fertilizer for the manure if you prefer.

Keep the mulch away from the stems. During the summer months, fertilize with a liquid fertilizer twice a month until mid-August. After that, the plants need time to slow down and harden off for the winter.

Pruning clematis vines is somewhat complicated. Keep track of the names of the varieties you plant so that you can ask for help at your local nursery. Proper pruning will create masses of flowers that cover the plants at bloom time. Improper pruning will delay flowering, and no pruning will leave you with a tangled mass of stems but plenty of flowers.

The first spring after planting, all clematis should be cut back just as you see leaf buds developing. Cut above two sets of buds on each stem. This will thicken the stems and encourage proper root development.

Clematis will reward you with an abundance of beautiful blossoms for many years. To see a clematis in full bloom is to understand why it is often called “the queen of the flowering vines.”

Landscaping with Versatile Vines

Friday, July 24th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Dig gently to harvest potatoes, a few plants at a time, after foliage yellows and dries up.
    • Colorful petunias will brighten up any flower bed. Their purples, pinks and reds make a real splash when planted in groups of the same color.
    • Dig and divide crowded spring-flowering bulbs and tubers including daffodils, scillas, muscari, and bearded iris.
    • Keep flowers and vegetables in peak condition by giving them a midsummer feeding with a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus than in nitrogen.
    • After the June crop of raspberries is finished, remove canes that produced fruit leaving new green canes, which can then be trained on trellises.

Solve landscaping problems with vines

All vines scramble or climb, but that’s where their similarity ends. You can grow vines for shade, for food, or for beauty of foliage, bloom or fruit. Vines range from tough, woody grapes, wisterias and trumpet vines to annuals like morning-glories and sweet peas. Add in clematis, ivies and Virginia creeper and you have lots to work with.

Are you bothered by an unsightly view? Vines can be used to cover up unsightly views or structures. Does your deck or patio broil in the noonday sun? A vine planted to grow over an overhead structure can provide welcome, cooling shade much quicker than a tree can.

Vines are used to soften and connect the hard edges between structures and plants in a garden. Wisteria or grapes can be used to cover a sturdy trellis linking the house with the garden. Or they can climb over an arch or pergola to form a green entrance or walkway. The drooping clusters of wisteria’s fragrant flowers are beautiful in the spring.

Plant vines to screen unsightly walls or views. A well placed vine can provide the same amount of privacy as a tall shrub, while taking up less horizontal space. For this purpose, be sure to choose evergreen vines, and train them to cover a trellis thickly. You can also extend the height of a typical 4-6′ privacy fence by adding trellising materials and an evergreen vine.

Virginia creeper, which attaches itself to walls with little suction cups, is excellent for covering plain walls or fences. In the fall, it turns a brilliant scarlet before dropping its leaves.

Star jasmine and Carolina jessamine are both evergreen vines. Star jasmine is prized for its wonderful fragrance. It climbs by twining, so will easily grow up a wire fence, but you may have to tie them to a trellis to start them growing up a wood fence.

Carolina jessamine is a twining vine that covers arbors, fences, lampposts and pillars. It’s bright yellow trumpet flowers make an eye-catching display in the spring.

The deciduous clematis have wonderful show of large, colorful flowers in spring or summer. They are ideal on a pergola or trellis in an area where you want to enjoy summer shade or privacy but admit winter sun.

A chain-link fence can be turned into a beautiful green wall with vines. Orange trumpet vine or Virginia creeper will give a lush green look all summer but be bare in winter. Ivy or evergreen clematis will hide the fence permanently. Honeysuckle is partly deciduous but covers well and spreads its lovely fragrance over a large area.

Annual vines are generally overlooked for their landscaping qualities. Planting annual vines on fences, gates and other structures quickly brings an established look to a young garden. Create summer shade on a porch with a string trellis covered with vines. Try morning-glories, scarlet runner beans, and moonflower for eye-catching summer color. Hops vines make a beautiful green covering but die to the ground each winter.

Look to versatile vines to help solve many of your landscaping problems.

Clematis Pruning

Monday, March 14th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Asparagus will provide you with delicious, low-priced spears for years to come if you plant them now from dormant crowns.
    • Spring vegetable starts are now ready to be planted. Set out starts of broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and other greens for delicious home-grown vegetables.
    • Thin raspberry canes to 4-6 inches apart. Cut back remaining canes to 3 feet tall.
    • Lilacs and wisteria have beautiful spring flowers. They come in a variety of colors and can be planted now from bare-root plants.
    • Plant strawberries now for delicious strawberry shortcake this summer.

Clematis Pruning Made Simple

These beautiful vines have a reputation for being hard to understand when it comes to pruning. This probably comes from the fact that there are so many different kinds of clematis, and different kinds are pruned differently.

Actually, when it comes to pruning, there are only three kinds of clematis: spring flowering, summer flowering, and those that flower in spring and again in summer. The first group flowers on wood formed the previous season, the second blooms on new wood formed since spring growth started, and the third group flowers on year-old wood in spring and on new wood in summer.

All first-year clematis should be pruned in February or March. Leave two sets of buds on each stem between the soil level and where you make your cut. In later years, follow the rules below.

Spring bloomers should be pruned to remove weak or dead stems just after flowering in May or June. Pruning later will result in fewer blooms the following spring. They need only be pruned lightly if space is limited. These include small-flowered Clematis montana varieties and the fragrant, evergreen Clematis armandii.

Clematis that bloom only in summer should be pruned in late February or March. Cut back all of last year’s growth to just above a good pair of buds about 10-12 inches from the ground. Over the years, a stump will form at that point from which new stems will grow. This will give you a plant with blooms that start near ground level and continue to the top of the plant. Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ is in this group, as are many hybrids such as ‘Ernest Markham’, ‘Gypsy Queen’, and ‘Hagley Hybrid’.

Those that bloom in both spring and summer should be pruned in late February or March. Remove any dead or weak stems, leaving an open, evenly spaced framework of strong growth. Cut back all other stems to a pair of healthy buds 1 to 4 feet above the ground. This group covers the rest of the large-flowered varieties and includes ‘Nelly Moser’, ‘General Sikorski’, ‘The President’, and ‘Henryi’.

If you don’t know which type you have, watch it for a year to see when it blooms and then prune accordingly. Always prune just above a joint where there are two healthy buds. If a plant has been neglected for many years, it can be rejuvenated by severely cutting back most of the old growth.

Remember that dormant vines often look dead, so trace the stem up to see if it supports new growth before cutting it off. The object in pruning clematis is to produce the greatest number of flowers on the shapeliest plant.

You can train clematis in many ways: on a trellis, on a fence or wall as a handsome tracery, twining up a tree, around a post or on an open framework for twining. Enjoy the “Queen of the Vines” in your garden.