Unusual Clematis

Unusual Clematis

Part of Ep. 1402 Secret Gardens & Living Fences

Shelley Ryan meets a rock gardener growing more than 25 varieties of clematis in all shapes and sizes. Venerable clematis, which often bears large purple flowers, is a plant that has long been valued by those looking for a showy, height-seeking garden dweller.

Premiere date: Jun 28, 2006

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley;
This, believe it or not, is a clematis.  Most of us think of clematis with the big purple flowers climbing up the side of the house.  This is only about two-feet tall.  We're in the backyard of a clematis collector and a member of the North American Rock Garden Society, Ed Grover.  Ed, you've got about 25 different clematis.  And they're not the typical ones. 

Ed:
No, they're not, they're quite different.  I started with large flowering ones also.  But then I found the small species clematis.  I just became fascinated with those and started collecting them, growing them from seed and searching out wherever I could find them. 

Shelley:
Now we're in the totally out of control stage? 

Ed:
Uh, yes, absolutely.  This one in front of us is a wonderful one.  This is Clematis fremontii.  It's from the prairies of Kansas and Nebraska. 

Shelley:
Is that why it's got these thicker leaves? 

Ed:
Right, it grows in full sun with hot, dry conditions.  It uses these leathery leaves as protection.  It does very well in rock gardens.  It likes full sun and well-drained soil. 

Shelley:
This is about as high as it's going to get? 

Ed:
That's it.  It'll spread out, but it's not going to get taller. 

Shelley:
Okay, lead on! 

Ed:
This plant is a little bit larger.  This is sort of a typical vining one. 

Shelley:
It looks like it almost wants a trellis. 

Ed:
Right, this is Clematis alpina v.  siberica.  As its name implies it comes from Siberia, Mongolia, northern Asia. 

Shelley:
So, hardy for Wisconsin? 

Ed:
Oh, absolutely.  It probably would grow up a trellis to eight feet or more.  I like it just rambling through the rock. 

Shelley:
It looks quite happy there. 

Ed:
This one is a real favorite of yours, Shelley. 

Shelley:
Well, it's blue.  This is Clematis scottii, a true alpine. 

Shelley:
So, this is it for height.  It's not going to get any larger. 

Ed:
Its native habitat is actually alpine area in north central Colorado, Utah, New Mexico.  It's a really good garden plant.  Once again, it likes rock garden conditions. 

Shelley:
I love the color! 

Ed:
The next one is my favorite.  This is Clematis columbiana v.  tenuiloba.  It's just a very low-growing creeping plant.  I first saw this in a garden trough in Minneapolis.  I decided I just had to have this. 

Shelley:
Just had to, huh?  Again, it's going to stay this height.  It's just going to spread in width. 

Ed:
It only gets about six or eight inches high but it's going to creep through the rocks and form an ever-expanding little colony there.  It has wonderful blue flowers in the early spring.  That's another advantage to these plants.  They bloom very early, before the large flower clematis. 

Shelley:
You've also got a cute one.  One of my garden friends says this has the cute factor. 

Shelley:
Yes, it does. 

Ed:
This is Clematis ochroleuca.  And this grows all along the Mid-Atlantic coast from New York all the way down to Georgia in sort of sandy, brushy areas.  It'll never get much larger than this.  It has these little yellow bells. 

Shelley:
Is it hardy in Wisconsin? 

Ed:
Completely. 

Shelley:
Most of what you've shown us is full sun.  Do you have anything for more shade? 

Ed:
I have one which will grow in full sun but it's also growing in my shade garden.  It does very well.  This is Clematis coactilis which grows in shale barrens in West Virginia.  It's incredibly hardy.  The garden books say it grows in all different conditions.  And it certainly does, it likes it here in my shade. 

Shelley:
And it's been there for a while. 

Ed:
It's been here a number of years.  And I like it because the flowers are covered with little white hairs. 

Shelley:
Each one of these is unique.  Is there a rule of thumb for keeping them happy? 

Ed:
The ones today really like rock garden conditions.  They like well-drained soil and in general, full sun.  But as you've seen, some will take shade also. 

Shelley:
So, avoid clay, or amend it until it drains well. 

Ed:
One advantage of these species is they're not susceptible to the diseases we often see in the large flowered hybrids, like Clematis Wilt and other fungal diseases.  They're a very happy plant. 

Shelley:
I can't wait to try some, thank you. 

Ed:
You're welcome. 

 

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