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Clematis ... the new and the rediscovered.

Clematis . . . the new and the rediscovered It's no exaggeration to call these clematis vines large flowered: many have blooms that are 8 to 10 inches across, and 4- to 6-inch flowers are commonplace. The richly colored flowers are velvety in finish and generously produced over a long season. Although most widely appreciated in the Northwest, they thrive throughout California and--with care--in desert and mountain areas.

Until recently, only a half-dozen varieties have been popular on Western fences and trellises. Now, there's been an explosion of interest, and new varieties and a host of rediscovered ones are showing up in nurseries and catalogs.

Why plant clematis?

Because they are quick-growing vines, clematis can furnish masses of color in a hurry. Use them to decorate a wall, heighten a fence, or provide screening for privacy or sun control. Grow them up archway supports or set them to climbing 4-by-4 posts to make vertical accents in perennial or mixed borders. For a portable flower show on a deck or near an entryway, grow them in large pots or tubs.

In larger gardens, clematis makes good cover for outbuildings or adornment for big shrubs or undistinguished small trees. Wild plants grow this way, scrambling up through larger plants, then draping flowering streamers over the branches.

Flowering branches of clematis are spectacular in arrangements.

How to buy; how to plant

Clematis vines are available in containers throughout the year, but most nurseries don't like to stock them in quantity because they blow over or tangle with their neighbors. In early spring, you can also buy them as dormant plants. These two-year-old pot-grown plants, usually offered in cardboard shipping and display tubes, are cheaper than the staked, established clematis. Although they arrive looking like unimpressive sticks, they grow fast and may bloom the first year.

Filtered sunlight is best for clematis. You can plant in full sun, but see that roots are kept cool: use a mulch, a noncompetitive ground cover, or a flat stone; or plant a small shrub on the clematis' south or west side. In hot climates, flower color lasts better in light or afternoon shade. (In the low desert, protect large-flowered clematis from wind and sun.)

Dig a 2- by 2-foot hole and mix excavated soil with ground bark, peat moss, or compost. Add lime only if a soil test reveals a calcium deficiency. Plant so that the top of the rootball is 1 to 3 inches below soil level. Handle any stems carefully; they are extremely brittle when young. Place support at once, and tie shoots to it.

Because clematis vines are prodigious growers, they require ample water throughout the growing season--and two feedings with a complete liquid fertilizer. Tip-pinch the first year to stimulate additional branching. After that, pruning is optional, but it will prevent tangling and top-heaviness, and it may improve the plant's appearance.

The general rule for pruning is that early bloomers need none or just enough to shape and control size. Late bloomers get a hard pruning (to 6 to 12 inches) in February. Kinds that bloom early and repeat later will produce large, early flowers if unpruned; pruned, they yield a larger crop of medium-size flowers in summer. Doubles produce double flowers only on old wood and should not be pruned until after blooming.

Shopping for clematis

For a wider selection than most retail nurseries can offer, turn to mail-order catalogs. These are free unless noted: Clifford's Perennials and Vines, Route 2, Box 320, East Troy, Wis. 53120 (catalog $1); Kelly Nurseries, Dansville, N.Y. 14437; Park Seed Co., Greenwood, S.C. 29647; Van Bourgondien Bros., Box A, Babylon, N.Y. 11702; W. Atlee Burpee Co., Warminster, Pa. 18974; Wayside Gardens, Hodges, S.C. 29695 ($1, credited toward purchase); White Flower Farm, Litchfield, Conn. 06759 ($5, credited toward purchase).

Here are varieties to choose from:

White. 'Henryi' is standard; 'Lanuginosa Candida', with large, broad-petaled flat flowers, is virtually identical to 'Marie Boisselot' ('Mme. LeCoultre'); newer 'Gillian Blades' has huge, star-shaped flowers.

Pink. 'Comtesse de Bouchard', the standard pink, has these rivals: 'Charissima', veined pink with deeper bars; 'Hagley Hybrid' ('Pink Chiffon'), shell pink with pointed sepals; and 'John Warren', pink with deeper pink edges.

Red. Red clematis have dark purplish red flowers that are best displayed where the sun can shine through them--as on the top of a fence. 'Mme. Edouard Andre', 'Ernest Markham', and 'Red Cardinal' are standards. 'Ville de Lyon' has full, rounded, velvety flowers, and 'Niobe' is darkest red of all.

Blue. Mid-blue 'Ramona' and 'Lawsoniana' are still popular. Newer varieties are 'Edo Murasaki', darker blue; 'General Sikorski', huge blue flowers with red bars; 'H.F. Young', big, mid-blue; 'Mrs. Cholmondeley', big, veined sky blue; 'Piccadilly:, purplish blue; and 'Will Goodwin', lavender to sky blue.

Purple. C. jackmanii is till the popular purple. Others are 'Gypsy Queen', deepest purple; 'Jackmanii Superba', larger and somewhat redder than C. jackmanii; 'Lady Betty Balfour', late blooming, bluish purple; 'Prince Philip', huge, ruffled purple; and 'Richard Pennell', large, rosy purple.

Bicolor. 'Nelly Moser', pink flowers with reddish bars, is one of the most popular clematis. Newer are 'Barbara Jackman', lavender blue with red stripes; 'Carnaby', white with red bars; 'Dr. Ruppel', pink with red bars; 'Lincoln Star', pink with paler edges; and 'Mrs. N. Thompson', bluish purple with red bars.

Double. Fully double, rose-like blooms appear early in the season and are often followed by singled or semidouble blooms in autumn. 'Belle of Working' is silvery blue; 'Duchess of Edinburgh', white; 'Mrs. P.T. James', lavender blue; and 'Teshio', lavender.

A booklet, Steffen's Clematis, describes 169 varieties, with detailed growing and cultural instructions. It costs $2 from Arthur H. Steffen, Inc., 1259 Fairport Rd., Box 184, Fairport, N.Y. 13350.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Mar 1, 1988
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