"One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it brings."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Clearing my Clematis Confusion.

Clematis have always been one of my very favorite flowers, and the fact that they are vines and can grow up taking less space in my yard has made me love them even more. But just the word Clematis has caused me confusion. My Mom always pronounced it "Cle MAT is" so that is what I always called them. It wasn't until years ago I heard it pronounced another way "CLEM ah tis".
The other confusing part about Clematis was the pruning. I guess I had been lucky that the first few I bought were types that bloomed on new wood. So, at the end of summer I would cut them down and then next summer have lots of blooms. It wasn't until I bought 'Nelly Moser' that I finally learned about the correct pruning times. I couldn't figure out why I would only get one or two blooms on it.
Now I find that I've accumulated 14 and except for a few, it's hard to remember when to prune each one. I've written out lists looked up each one and written down the pruning time. Then I've lost each list and had to start over again the next year. I thought I would use this post to keep track of my Clematis as well as explain a little about when each type is pruned.

Type 1 or A are Spring bloomers and require no pruning unless you would like to thin them or cut out dead vines.

Clematis armandii is one I had but unfortunately decided to move last summer and it didn't make it. I'm sure I'll be adding another this year, maybe the pink 'Apple Blossom' variety.

'Southern Cross' a new one last year which is zone 8 - 9, so I may be pushing it a little, crossing my fingers it makes it.

Type 2 or B is divided into two groups
usually bloom May - June on previous growth, and may have a second smaller flush of flowers later in summer on current growth.

'Josephine' - grows happily in a container on my deck


'Nelly Moser' - tends to die back every summer, I've moved her to a new spot to see if she'll be happier.

'Nelly Moser'

'Piilu' (Little Duckling) - pruned at wrong time and no blooms last summer

B2 bloom on last years and current growth usually continuously from June - September. Pruning should take place late winter and just cutting out tangled or dead vines.

'Crimson King'


'Miss Bateman'

Type 3 or C bloom on current wood only. These should be pruned as close to the ground as possible to the first two sets of buds. These bloom during the summer and are fast growing.

'Alionushka' - easy care and blooms great every year


'Comtesse de Bouchard' - new last year, bloomed into the fall
'Etoille Violette' (viticella) - blooms like crazy in hot side yard
'Jackmanii superba' - as easy as they get and blooms like crazy

'Jackmanii superba'

'Little Nell' (viticella) - new last summer, few little blooms

'Little Nell'

'Peppermint' - new last summer, crossing my fingers I see this one again
'Ville de Lyon' - another very easy one that has huge flowers

'Ville de Lyon'

I'm sure my list will continue to grow, especially since I have 3 already on my wish list. I fertilize Clematis by putting new compost around them in the Spring. If you have any other tips about Clematis I'd love to hear them as well.
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  1. I have the same issue, Catherine. I don't remember who is who. Well, I remember the name, but don't remember the group. It's a good idea to get them all in one post and check it when needed. I've never seen Alionushka clematis. Alionushka is a Russian girls'name (Aliona, Elena, Helen). I like it! You are right about Jackmanii superba'- it does bloom like crazy!Do you feed him anything special? Or do you talk to him? Great blooms and useful post, thanks!

  2. My Alaska contribution to Clematis culture: don't use a trellis liable to collapse under a heavy snow load. I had to re-fashion the copper archway after it did just that in a heavy snow year. Of course the Clematis were a mess dealing with while putting in my new supports. I just wacked them way back and crossed my fingers. They came through fine.

    Christine B.

    P.S. Try C. alpina 'Stolwijk Gold'. It has yellowish foliage and purply-blue flowers: dynamite in spring!

  3. It seems to be a problem to most people, pruning. I've decided not to prune at all any more and it works just fine. You made me count my Clematis since I thought that 14 were quite a lot. I've ONLY got 12 "lol" / gittan

  4. I have posted this same issue a couple of times and have found that even the most experienced gardeners grimace at the idea of pruning Clematis Vines. I have one that blooms Spring and late Summer, so you only cut off a little, kind of like shaping...I planted three others late Summer, hopefully they will do fine...fingers and toes crossed! Yours are beautiful.

  5. I tried growing Clem -ah - tis (at least that is how I pronounce it ;) years ago with mixed results. They didn't like the heat too much. I am thankful that I can see you grow your 14 Clematis instead :^)

  6. Oh, those are so pretty! I haven't had much luck with Clematis in Albuquerque, so like Noelle, I'm glad I can live vicariously through your Clematis. Thanks!

  7. I'm developing a very similar obsession to Clematis as you... I have no idea of the different types, but in general I pay little attention to 'rules'... Bad, I know!

    Plenty of beautiful Clematis there, my particular favourite is Montana Marjorie after seeing the most amazing display on Holy Island - Lindesfarne (UK), I simply *had* to get one!

  8. An excellent way to keep track indeed. I did a similar post a few years ago because I was always confused. Once I understood what the types were and how to prune them the hard part was remembering what types I grew;)It is still my problem too. Sigh. This post will be most helpful.

  9. I have the same problem. I only had two though and they died back every summer which was good for them. LOL! I planted three new ones last Fall. Two to climb the wisteria vine which refuses to bloom. It was a hint for the wisteria to bloom or out it goes this summer.So I will have to see if they need pruned and when.
    You do a few don't you.;-)
    I love your Henryi and Josephine.

  10. Oh, just beautiful! I love Clematis.

  11. Yours are beautiful. I currently don't have any but intend to add some.

  12. My gosh what a huge collection!! How pretty.

  13. What a useful post to refer to! Lovely photographs too.

    I have found that with C. armandii, each time I try to train a length somewhere that piece dies back. Now I just leave it to do its own thing until I can't stand the sight of it any longer.

    It would be interesting to try and
    control our wild clematis,Old Man's Beard, which I've just done a blog on. I've never had the courage to let it take hold in the garden!


  14. Ahh! Huge sigh of relief and gratitude. I inherited one that originally I thought was just dead twigs. hhehe. I had no idea what it was but did know about the different pruning types--so I've left it alone. From your descriptions it sounds as though that was the right thing to do. I would like to see more blooms but when I transplanted it out of the wooden planter I received it in...well, let's just say I've seen horror flicks with less screaming and carnage. I kind of expected a slow return. I did wonder though if I should be whacking it down. Thank you so much for clearing this up for me.
    I will admire your beautiful vines while I wait for mine to hopefully catch up. You give me something to aspire to. Thanks!

  15. Tatyana - I thought 'Alionushka' sounded Russian, it's really one of my favorites. On 'Jackmani superba' it just gets some new compost in the Spring and that's about it for fertilizer.

    Christine B - The one you suggested sounds really pretty, I'm going to look it up.

  16. I loev clematis! I always say it 'cle-MAT-is', even though I know better. lol
    I have 'Ernest Markham', and one book of mine says it's in one pruing class, and another book says it's a different pruning class :) You have fourteen! I wish I had that many, but don't have the vertical supports lol.

  17. Lovely pictures. WOW... I just whack mine back to the wood on all in the spring. Sometime all the way to the ground and they just pop back here in the midwest. I do have something planted in front of them as I know the roots do not like dry direct sun, which we have.

    Keep the color coming, I need a fix.
    Kate-The Garden Bell

  18. Great post, and a gorgeous collection of blooms. I bought my first clematis last year, and wouldn't you know it, it's a group B! After reading the differences A & C seems sooo much easier.

  19. Great post Catherine. Clematis confuse me too and this is a really nice summary. Your collection is just beautiful.

  20. That full bloomer really caught my eye! I so like profuse bloomers for my bees, butterflies and hummers. I had Nellie last year for spring then she croaked on me. I don’t know why as she provided me with several beautiful blooms and I posted on her then she died. Maybe I jinxed her by showing her off who knows but I do know I need to add some to my garden and stop trying to get stuff to grow in the mailbox planter!

  21. They are so pretty. I have found that my blog helps me keep track of things, too. I won't loose my blog, well hopefully not. :/
    Those blooms are worth the effort. Pretty post!

  22. Oooooh - they are so beautiful!! Pity its all so confusing ;-) but looks like they are worth all the extra efforts!
    Have a great day!

  23. Your collection/photos are just so pretty. When we moved to our present home, there were several clematis here and I had to experiment to find out which they were and when to prune. Oddly enough, I know that most clematis do not like to be moved. When we had the porch remodeled, we had to move one. Not only did it make it, a "baby" came up amongst all the new rock work on the porch. We could not have done that if we had tried! ha ha

  24. Whoa! I didn't realize you had so many. Even though they climb up and take up less room I never know what to put them on to grow up. Guess I need to buy a bunch of trellises or put Bob to work building me stuff (he'll love hearing that). I want 'Ville de Lyon' next. It's my perfect color and you say it has big blooms. Love it!

  25. Catherine I knew I had been somewhere that had lists of the different clematis so I just looked it up. Maybe this will help some people. It tells about each group, shows a diagram of how to prune them and has a comprehensive list of clematis varieties that fall under that group. Here's the website address.

  26. Wow, Catherine! Your clematis (and photos) are wonderful. I've never grown one in a container... what would I do here in Zone 4/5 during the long winter? Put it in the shed?? I might try it! ;-)

  27. Just beautiful, all of them. I had trouble remembering everything as well, that's why I got Garden Tracker- it has saved me more than once! I was really sad to leave my clematis in Portland, but now I have a really good excuse to find the one clematis I've been trying to hunt down- Swamp clematis (Clematis Crispa)!

  28. What a great collection, nice variety. Hey you say tomato I say tamahto, well not really I say tomato. Until recently - okay, recently for me is the last fifteen years, I only heard your mom's way of pronouncing the lovely vine. Frankly I like going with the vernacular: and Cle MAT is.

  29. Beautiful and interesting post, Catherine!
    I love Clematis! I have the Multiblue, the Armand and Flammula, and after seeing
    Josephine ..... love at first sight!
    I like both also viticella that I think will be purchasing at some point.
    Thanks for the lesson of pruning for me that are not very capable
    Very good!

  30. Hi Catherine~~ Great post as usual. Have you seen Linda Beutler's book, "Gardening with Clematis"? She's a fellow northwester, lives in Portland. I found it a very inspiring read, more conversational narrative than technical how-to. I've found that if I prune my clematis [I say CLEM uh tis, don't ask me why. I've also heard "clem A tis" go figure.]anyway, if I prune my vines down directly after blooming, fertilize, top dress with compost the process will stimulate new growth and more blooms. This works with any of the spring, summer blooming types. I was going to write that 'Ville de Lyon' is my favorite large-flowered variety but that would be a lie. It's ONE of my favorite. Josephine is also wonderful as is 'Venosa Violacea'... I could go on all night. 'Little Nell' has been on my wishlist for a few years. 'Palette' is similar so for now it will have to suffice. 'Alionushka' was a newbie last year and didn't do much of anything so I'm looking forward to a better performance this summer. Can one ever have too many clematis? I don't think so. :)

  31. great post today!!!! mine is a Jack...and I cut it every fall

  32. Dear Catherine, Such useful and practical advice particularly for those who are new to clematis. It is so important not to be put off growing these wonderful climbers on account of their pruning requirements.

    I wonder if you have discovered, and indeed grow, the herbaceous clematis? If not, then well worth looking out for and very easy to deal with in the way of normal perennials.

  33. Catherine ~ What beauties clematis are. I sit here sighing at the lovely blooms I cannot grow down here. Thanks for sharing. I would love to have them all.


  34. Catherine, Thank you so much. I am planning to add my first clematis to the garden this spring, and I was clueless about these pruning issues. So you've probably saved me from what would have been certain failure. -Jean

  35. Such a beautiful post! I have "Rebecca" & "Josephine" on my wish list this year. Thanks for sharing this, Catherine.


  36. That's amazing that you have so many. They are such incredible plants, and I'm glad to have the pronunciation confirmed too, thanks! My armandii is still struggling along, I'm sorry yours didn't make it but this may be the last year for mine. I got a Jackmanii last summer and did cut it down in the fall per Grace Peterson's suggestion, so I hope it returns. Compost in the spring is a good hint too, thanks!

    The only thing I've heard is that they don't like having "hot feet" so planting a big hosta to shade the base is supposed to help. I did that with one and put rocks around the other's roots, we'll see if it worked!

  37. Oh, what a beautiful post Catherine. Your pictures make me long for summer. Clematis are one of my favorite vines too. I only have nine varities tho and that's if 'Josephine' makes it. I wish she had happily bloomed in a container for me. I was going for that last summer but something wasn't to her liking. We'll see if she makes it thru the winter or not. I think I've always pronounced them Clem A tis?? Funny isn't it? I am always interested in pronunciation from other gardeners tho because many times I've had it all wrong.
    Your pruning list is an excellent idea. I think I'll drag my notebook out and try to make my own.

  38. That's a great way to keep track of your clematis. Now that you've reminded me I made the exact same list last year for our clematis, and where did I put it????


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