I’ve always loved clematis ever since I started gardening – a wall or fence completely smothered in its blooms is a lovely sight to behold. As a garden designer, I include them in planting plans for clients quite a lot – depending on the individual garden (and the garden owner ) - because, if chosen carefully, clematis can make a glorious addition to any garden.
The choice of clematis is huge, and they’re divided into several groups, each with different pruning needs, which can put you off if you just want plants that are easy to look after, so I tend to keep it simple and recommend varieties that are very easy to look after. A handy rule of thumb, if you’re not sure whether to prune or not, is ‘If it flowers before June, don’t prune’. If it flowers from late June onwards, you can cut it back in February as it will flower on the new season’s growth.
Small clematis varieties are suitable for tiny courtyard gardens or even large pots, while others will grow very vigorously to a great height. You can choose from evergreen or deciduous, winter, spring or summer flowering, and small, dainty flowers or saucer-sized, brightly coloured blooms.
All will need some support – an obelisk will work well for smaller kinds, giving you height in the middle of a border, with other plants below. Trellis will work on walls, as will a simple arrangement of horizontally stretched wire secured to hooks or vine eyes. Most prefer a sunny spot to flower in, but don’t mind their bases being shaded.
Here are a few easy to care for favourites:
Clematis montana – I’m standing in the picture in front of Clematis montana ‘Elizabeth’ – a pink-petalled, vanilla scented spring flowering cultivar that’s enthusiastically vigorous – it’ll scramble up anything within reach, including trees.
‘Early Sensation’ – small white spring flowers and attractive glossy leaves. Good in smaller spaces.
‘Niobe’ – huge velvety big claret-red flowers over the summer months.
‘Etoile Violette’ – late flowering, small but gorgeous deep purple blooms.
‘Apple Blossom’ – vigourous, evergreen and spring flowering – one for bigger gardens.
Clematis montana is vigorous enough to cover an entire fence fairly quickly.
Anne Byrne Garden Design – Creative Ideas – Practical Solutions – Stunning Gardens