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18 July 2014

Clematis - 5 Recommended Varieties

No garden should be without a clematis or two, as they can provide flowers through every season if you choose the right varieties. They are ideal for growing on walls, pergolas or old tree stumps, and will support themselves if provided with trellis where there is no natural support.

Clematis like their stems and flowers to be in the sun, but their roots to be shaded and cool, so cover them with a slab or large stone, or plant a bushy evergreen in front to provide shade. Prepare the ground well before planting, digging in well-rotted farmyard manure or compost, plus a good helping of bonemeal for each plant.

A few years ago the Clematis Society carried out a survey of its members to determine the five best easy to grow species, and the top five were as follows:-

1) 'Etoile Violette', a stunning viticella clematis that sends out countless rich-purple flowers from July. It has an easy going, undemanding nature, and is earlier into flower than most viticellas and always in full flow by July.

2) 'Arabella' claimed second place. Introduced in 1990, 'Arabella' was an immediate star as it flowers continuously from late spring until early autumn, longer than any other variety. It has small mauve-blue flowers, studded with white filaments and yellow stamens, and as they fade, pink veining begins to show in the pristine flowers. It's a non-clinging clematis, so let it grow over a bank or come up through low shrubs and it can reach a height of 5ft (1.5m).

3) 'Polish Spirit'. This is the latest flowering viticella of all, and has blue-purple petals which are wider than those of 'Etoile Violette' and a whiter centre boss. 'Polish Spirit' looks particularly effective growing twined through roses or pair it with the earlier 'Etoile Violette' for a continuous purple-blue haze.

4) 'Venosa Violacea', another viticella clematis, bred in 1884. Each open flower has a white background overlaid with red-purple markings, giving the petals an almost speckled, tessellated texture. However harsh light can wash the flower colour away, so grow 'V. Violacea' in dappled shade.

5) 'Huldine' took fifth place. This is an elegant clematis, loved for its small pearl-white flowers, each of which is lightly barred in violet-pink. It has a cool, translucent quality lacking in many whites. Each flower has an attractively darker back and looking up through 'Huldine' as it straddles a trellis, arch or pergola is a delight. It needs a warm, moderately sunny place to look it's best.

Clematis viticella, found all over Southern Europe, was the first clematis to be introduced into Britain in 1569. It's name means "small vine" and the hanging, dark-blue lanterns of the true C. viticella are suspended on long vertical stems, where they dance and tremble in the slightest breeze.

All viticellas are easy to prune, drought-tolerant and hardy. Just cut back to the lowest shoots in spring to promote vigorous new growth. It is suggested that you remember the Valentine's Day Massacre and prune back hard on February 14, though preferably using secateurs rather than firearms. Another phrase to remember is "if it flowers before June, do not prune."

You will probably need to get most of the above from a specialist nursery, which you can find on the internet. If you are seriously interested in clematis then why not join the Clematis Society.
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