Although the stars of June are certainly the roses, quietly creeping their way up among the trees and shrubs are the mid-summer flowering clematis. Here are six that are currently flowering around the garden, some large and some small but all add something quite special.
One: Perle d’azur
This pale blue, vigorous clematis has been slowly climbing up a large holly tree in recent years. Last autumn we did some major pruning on the holly to try and get it back into shape and we wondered whether the clematis would be as good this year. In the last few weeks it has begun to flower and clearly we have not done it any lasting damage.
Two: Clematis viticella ‘Minuet’
A much smaller and less vigorous clematis than the Perle d’azur, ‘Minuet’ is climbing amongst a honeysuckle and rose in the old rose garden. It has delightful two-tone flowers.
Three: Clematis texensis ‘Etoile rose’
We are not entirely sure about the name of this clematis but we think it might be ‘Etoile rose’. Each year we think it might be something different. Its small bell shaped, nodding flowers emerge from an ivy trellis close to the house and brighten an otherwise green backdrop.
Four: Blue large flowered clematis (variety unknown)
I have included this because it has such a beautiful flower. Not hugely vigorous it has survived in a quite inhospitable spot in dry shade for a number of years now. In the last few years we have begun to clear the over bearing shrubs and it has responded well. Any idea on the variety? The flowers are relatively large (c. 6 inches across) and it has very delicate markings on the sepals.
Five: Clematis ‘Voluceau’
Another clematis the we planted some years ago but has really come to life in recently years. The reddish purple flowers are very striking against the dark leaves of the ivy.
Six: Clematis ‘Etoile violette’
My final choice is to show just how well clematis can be used to complement other plants flowering at this time of year. Here Clematis ‘Etoile violette’ is growing amongst the rose ‘American Pillar’. It is a striking combination that we enjoy every year. Both are very vigorous and sit together well.
There is no doubt that the richness and diversity of clematis can add value to the garden throughout the year (if you love them too you might enjoy this article as well).
There is so much to see in the garden at the moment and Six on Saturday is simply not enough. However, as we move from May to June it is the roses that are in the ascendency and I really couldn’t have a six this week without them. I spent today cutting the grass and repeatedly stopped to smell the roses as I went past each time. The grass cutting took rather longer than usual!
Here are six that I have chosen to highlight today – there could have been so many more.
This is a beautifully fragrant English Shrub Rose (also known as Auscousin). This group of repeat flowering roses sits in front of a Cornus kousa which is also flowering wonderfully this year.
Two: Rhapsody in Blue
Perhaps a slightly weird colour for a rose (it is on the way to blue but definitely not a true blue). It is certainly a talking point and I think goes very nicely with the purple leaves of the Cotinus coggygria.
Three: Comte de Chambord
This is a very fragrant shrub rose that we planted as part of our 25th wedding anniversary rose garden. Now over 15 years old they are still going strong (as are we!). They combine very well with the Persicaria bistorta in the foreground and the brick red ‘My Castle’ lupins.
Four: Rambling Rosie
About three years ago now we converted the old flower growing area of our floristry business into a more aesthetically pleasing flower garden. We simply love growing flowers. We have planted a couple of climbing roses over two new pergolas and it has taken them a couple of years to really get going. This year they are full of flower buds and ‘Rambling Rosie’ I hope will really perform this year. Fingers crossed.
Five: Rose ‘Festival’
I have a bit of a soft spot for this rose. It is one of a number the roses that I received as a leaving present when I left the East Malling Research Station in Kent and moved up to Horticulture Research International at Wellesbourne in 1992. It is a lovely rose and seems to be very healthly despite its age. In the foreground here is the pink Kolkwitzia which the bees absolutely adore with the white mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata) behind.
Six: Paul’s Himalayan Musk
It has proved quite difficult to photograph this rambling rose which creeps its way up through the trees and shrubs and pops out flowers where you least expect it to have reached. It is a lovely, strongly fragrant rose with small blooms in large drooping clusters. The colours of the individual blooms change as they age from blush pink towards white.
That’s it for this week. I strongly suspect that roses may well appear again in the coming weeks.
Rose ‘Arthur Bell’ is a delightfully fragrant yellow climbing rose. It is a floribunda type rose which has these delightful rose buds with a subtle red strip. Each of these buds opens to a rich yellow flower which then fades to pale yellow. This means that at any one time the rose has a range of delightful new rose buds and a mix of strong and pale yellow flowers on the same plant.
We have had this climbing rose for over 15 years and to be honest it was beginning to show its age. This year (in an attempt to give it one last chance) we pruned it back quite hard and gave it a good feed. It has responded extremely well producing a number of strong new shoots and is flowering well once again. It is an old friend and a firm favourite.
There is no doubt that Wisteria can be one of the most spectacular flowering plants in the garden. Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) can grow to 20-30 feet and is at its best from late April to June. It is a member of the pea family and produces a cascade of splendid fragrant blue flowers.
Despite the regular summer pruning back to 6 buds, our plants were getting rather large, tangled and out of hand so in February this year Carol undertook a major prune, removing some of the most wayward stems and cutting back to three buds. It has responded well and is producing a really good show of flowers. I really like the contrast of the blue wisteria with these Ronaldo and Grand Perfection tulips.
New plants can take up to ten years or more to flower so when buying a Wisteria it is well worth buying a plant that is already in bloom. In this way you know that you are going to get a plant that will perform for you in a relatively short space of time. The other crucial thing to think about is how you are going to support what will be a very heavy plant. Many train Wisteria on strong wires against a wall or house. Here we wanted to view it from all sides and so have grown it around a framework of arched steel rods. In around 15 years it has developed some substantial twisted stems that are a feature in their own right.
On the same supports we also grow Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’ which is a native species of North America. A little more compact than its oriental cousins, it tends to flower a little later and so continues the show into the early summer.
If you want an even taller wisteria then you could consider the Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis). This can grow to 40-60 feet and can be distinguished from the Japanese Wisteria by the fact that the stems twine in the opposite direction – that is anticlockwise rather than clockwise.
The flowering of the Wisteria in the garden is anticipated eagerly every year and rarely does it disappoint.
Honey Pot Flowersare wedding and celebration florists based in Warwickshire in the United Kingdom specialising in natural, locally grown seasonal flowers. We grow many of our own flowers allowing us to offer something very different and uniquely personal.
Rather like old friends our clematis return each year and delight us. They have increased in number and size over the years and these long-lived plants quietly creep around the trees and shrubs and emerge reliably each year. We love collecting new varieties and luckily many have enjoyed the conditions in our garden.
It is a pure joy to suddenly come across that first bloom of the year from a clematis that has been quietly surviving over the winter. The large buds develop and then, there it is, the first perfect flower.
For other smaller flower varieties like C. montana it is the spectacular show provided by a large cloak of thousands of flowers in delicate pink that sit wonderfully amongst the white lilac tree and our purple leaved Prunus padus. You don’t seem to notice how far it has spread until it blooms. There is a danger that a strong clematis might well overwhelm a smaller tree but there is no doubt the effect is dramatic.
Distribution in nature
Britain has only one native species of clematis (C. vitalba (Old Man’s Beard)) but there are over 250 species¹ distributed mainly in tropical or temperate regions. Most are natives of the northern hemisphere with several native to Europe. As well as the very familiar large flowered hybrids that grace the garden centres there are a number of smaller flowered species that make highly desirable garden plants.
A member of the Ranunculaceae (the buttercup family), clematis come in a wide range of blue mauves to purples but also white through pink to shades of red, burgundy and also yellow. The petals of Clematis have been replaced by colourful sepals. Typically these are in fours or eight but some (eg. Clematis ‘Niobe’) have six. Through a careful choice of cultivars and species you can have clematis flowering in your garden from spring through to autumn.
Clematis are not commonly grown for their scent but we would not be without our C. x aromatica which climbs over our rope rose arches and provides a lovely waft of ‘vanilla’ scent across the garden in the evening. A strategically placed seat and a glass of wine are all you need to enjoy the experience to the full.
Clematis in the garden
One of the essential benefits of clematis is that they exploit the vertical dimension of the garden. They climb over their hosts by using their leaf stems. Given an appropriate support, they can rapidly cover a trellis or other structural feature. Variety ‘Nelly Moser’ with its large pink flowers is also very comfortable growing against a north facing wall.
Most of the clematis we have growing here at Waverley are deciduous however there is one, C. armandii, which is evergreen. This is a tough old plant and wants to survive. Its supporting tree was felled over ten years ago but even after a ruthless prune it still flowers every year and clambers through the remaining lower shrubs.
The most successful of our clematis are growing amongst other mature trees or shrubs and they climb their way up to the light. They don’t seem to mind the competition and many books indicate that the roots need to be kept shaded and cool. Where we have clematis growing up supports in more formal flower beds we make sure they are planted amongst herbaceous perennials to ensure that the root area and base of the plant is kept in the shade during the summer months.
The general advice is to plant pot grown clematis deep² so that if the plant is damaged or contracts wilt it will regrow new shoots again from under the surface. When preparing the planting hole for a new clematis you should include plenty of organic matter.
There is a lot written about pruning clematis. For us the simple and easy to remember phrase “if it flowers before June do not prune” works well for us.
Cutting and conditioning
Clematis can make a wonderful addition to any floral design. Its trailing habit adds something not offered by many flowering plants suitable for cutting. Growing a stem that trails effectively does require some forward thinking otherwise you end up with a tangled mess to unravel. Some of our clematis grow across a rope arch and individual strands are allowed (encouraged) to hang down naturally in preparation for cutting.
As with most flowers they are best cut in the cool of the early morning and placed into cool water to condition for at least 24 hours. To get the best vase life cut into older wood.
The stems last well and can be effectively added to long table arrangements to trail down the front of a top table. We probably use the smaller C. montana more often for this kind of arrangement.
There is no doubt that Clematis add something very special and different to the garden. Many look delicate but they are really very tough and resilient plants if you give them conditions that they can thrive in. Choosing your varieties carefully can provide on-going interest throughout late spring and summer and into autumn.
¹ “A comprehensive guide to Clematis” by Barry Fretwell (ISBN 0 00 414017 6)
² “Growing Clematis” by Nicholas Hall, Jane Newdick and Neil Sutherland (ISBN 1-85833-163-3)