Salisbury, MD. You say Clematis (KLEM-a-tis), I say Clematis (klem-AH-tis).
No matter how you pronounce it, Clematis is a wonderful plant for most locations. If you garden in a small area, it's perfect because it grows up, not out, maximizing space. I can even be container grown. If you garden in a shaded lot, your clematis will yield brighter blooms. If you garden in full sun, you can take a few simple steps that will allow your clematis to thrive.
Clematis come in a wide range of colors ranging from the large deep bluish-purple flowered "Jackmanii" that you most often see growing at mailboxes over the summer to the small multi-blossomed white "Sweet Autumn" that can literally cover large areas with its sweet scented blooms in the fall.
As the Gardening Grannies so often say, "just put the right plants in the right place" and your gardens will thrive. So, just what makes Clematis happy? It's a pretty simple formula. Most important is to plant it with its face in the sun and its feet in the shade. Clematis like cool feet, so it's important to put them where other small plants (think annuals such as impatiens) or mulch can shade the root system. As with most plants, they grow towards the sun with six hours a day being plenty. For many of the brightly colored ones, direct sun all day can fade the blooms and shorten their "prime".
A particularly attractive feature of Clematis is the 300-some species and hybrids available to the gardener. Some are early bloomers, some mid-summer and some fall bloomers. There are large and small flowered varieties in a wide range of colors. Some have a huge flush of color at bloom-time and then are done for the season while others bloom for months at a time. Some are fragrant, others are not. Catalogs are usually very specific about the type, time and length of bloom, so there is minimal risk in purchasing and maximum benefit of planning out a full season of blooms. The one negative trait of Clematis that they all have in common is that during the winter, they are all a relatively unattractive mass of tangled vines.
Clematis can be grown on a fence, trellis, shepherd's crook or over an object the gardener might want to enhance (as in a mailbox) or hide (as in a stump or other unattractive object). Granny Griffith has particular luck by planting Clematis alongside climbing roses with their feet cooled by liriiope and under mulched mature rhododendrons. The compliment of blooms can be stunning. It can also offer unexpected benefits when the combination of leaves and density provides shelter for nesting birds. This is the second year that a robin has chosen to nest in the shelter of a climbing rose/clematis planting in Granny Griffith's back yard.
As with most climbing plants, the first year is often one of survival, the second year the plant strengthens its root system and the third year it takes off. Regular fertilizing with a consistently moist soil reduces stress and enhances growth of the plant. If you haven't thought of them before, the Gardening Grannies encourage you to give consideration to them for this gardening season.
The Gardening Grannies are a mature group of avid and Master Gardeners who live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.