Ask the Gardener

OVER the coming weeks the pale pink flowers of Clematis montana rubens will be seen climbing up walls, scrambling over arches and bringing a splash of delicate colour to the spring garden.

Montana is just one of the many species available in this large family of climbing, deciduous or evergreen plants. Clematis are ideal for covering walls, fences and unsightly outbuildings, or also for scrambling over pergolas, old trees and arches to create that cottage garden effect. They are grown for their spectacular flowers which come in a variety of shapes and sizes, they can be big and showy or small and delicately scented. They range in colour from white to pink, blue, purple, red and yellow. Clematis are usually divided into 3 groups depending on their flowering season.

* Group 1: Flower anytime from the start of the year to late spring.

* Group 2: Flower twice in the year, first in late spring and again in mid to late summer.

* Group 3: Flower from mid-summer to early autumn.

Few plants are more undemanding than these deservedly popular climbers. With the right choice of variety and careful planting they should establish quickly and easily providing colour for most of the year.

Q. I would like to grow a clematis but have had little success in the past trying to grow them. I have a very sunny sheltered wall, can you help?

A. Clematis like to grow in rich, moist but free draining soil, the roots and base of the plant need shade while the upper part likes plenty of sun. If your soil was very dry your plants could have dried out. It could also be that you did not place deep enough when planting; clematis need to be 15cm or 6 inches below the soil surface in order to keep the root cool. Placing slate or stones at the base of the plant will help keep the root in the shade.

Q. Can you recommend an evergreen variety of clematis?

A. Clematis armandii is an early flowering variety that has large dark green polished leaves and large slightly scented white flowers.

Q. Is trellising the best way to support a clematis when growing on a wall?

A. A trellis can look very pretty on a wall but after a while it will rot as the timber cannot be treated. I would suggest running lengths of horizontal wires along the wall and as the plant grows tying it on to the wire with plant ties. Use a type that’s gentle enough not to cut into the stem of the clematis.

Q. Can you suggest some varieties of clematis that will flower from early spring until late autumn?

A. My suggestion for early flowers would be the Clematis montana and Clematis armandii as mentioned already. Both are vigorous and trouble free given the correct growing conditions and care. Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ and ‘Royalty’ are good repeat flowering from group 2, and Clematis ‘Jackmanii’ with its large purple flowers would be my suggestion from group 3.

If you have any gardening questions, you can contact Charlie by visiting, , or via twitter @the_pavilion


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