In The Garden: Your Clematis is under attack.
NORMALLY by this time of the year, we're looking back at the fantastic displays Clematis Montana rewards us with.
But this year it's not the late season that's caused problems, it's the sudden death of plants throughout the region just as they were coming into leaf.
If you're still waiting for the leaves to unfold properly but you find that they've shrivelled and gone dry, take a close look just above ground on the main trunk.
The odds are you'll find what appears to be water running down the stem, literally forming a puddle.
My first thought was frost damage and this was like a burst water pipe. But now I'm certain it's a bacterial disease that blocks the plant's stems, causing the foliage to shrivel and die.
Occasionally, I've come across yellow bracket-like lumps of fungus growing around where this water or sap pours, rather than oozes, out of the stem.
Expert opinion seems to be that this is a disease affecting Clematis Montanas only. While there's nothing that can be done to save infected plants, it's safe to plant other Clematis types in the same hole after improving the soil structure and nutrient level.
If your plant looks healthy, be prepared to cut it back when the flowers have finished. Clematis Montana and its named cultivars, which are usually pink and occasionally white-flowered, should be pruned after flowering.
This gives the new growths 11 months to settle down before flowering next spring. If pruning is left until autumn or winter, then the wood or stems are not old enough to flower.
Pruning is simple. The idea is to cut it back sufficiently so that by the time it comes into flower next year, it just covers its allotted space. If yours isn't doing its job yet, then it doesn't need pruning. But if you've got a really old plant, you can be quite drastic and give it a really hard prune.
Left unpruned, Clematis Montana flowers marvellously but keeps getting bigger - and requires considerable pruning to keep it under control.
Flowering at the same time in my garden are several cultivars of Clematis Alpina, which is much less vigorous and requires totally different pruning after flowering.
Usually blue, but occasionally pink or white, these dainty flowers grow on twiggy side shoots from slow-growing main stems.
The oldest of my plants is six years of age and as yet hasn't fully occupied its space on a 6ft x 2ft trellis, yet looking at it today, it's carrying well over 100 flowers.
So if you're looking for a compact, maintenance-free, easy to grow Clematis, then look at the Alpinas - and don't forget the bonus of lovely white silky seed heads in the autumn.
RECENTLY I reminded you not to rush round the garden, ripping out plants that looked dead after the effects of the combined frost and wet during the winter.
I'm delighted to tell you that one of my Cordylines has sprouted six or eight little babies just days before she was destined to be recycled down at Lifford Lane.
Now she's going into a new pot and she'll be placed on my mist propagation bench and encouraged to produce several shoots.
I might try these as cuttings, although they're difficult to root. On the other hand, it's impossible to make a single-stemmed Cordyline out of them again.
If you've got a plant like that and you find a lump anywhere near the soil surface - what's called a 'toe' in the trade - these can be severed with a sharp knife or a pair of secateurs from the root system and potted up, burying them about two inches deep.
Keep them in a shady, warm place and keep them well-watered in a John Innes-type gritty compost.
In no time at all, you'll end up with a new plant. It's the way many growers propagate them when they only want a few new plants.
IN THE GARDEN
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|Publication:||Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)|
|Date:||Jun 17, 2001|
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