Climbing Clematis

Most of the flowers in our yard bloom, hang around a few weeks, then wither and disappear.  Not so with our climbing clematis, whose multitude of purple flowers we get to enjoy for two months each summer.

Clematis, like so many plants we surround ourselves with here in America, originated in China and eventually made its way into Japanese gardens by the 17th century.  By the 18th century clematis had found its way to English gardens, where it picked up the name we called it.  Of nearly 300 species of clematis, the most popular is jackmanii, which is the variety we grow at our homestead here in Cape May County, NJ.

Each fall, we cut our clematis back to about 2-3″ above the ground.  By April 1st, new shoots are reaching for our arbor in the beginning of a 7-8′ ascent that happens over the course of about three weeks or so.  By Memorial Day, the gorgeous purple flowers with white highlights up the center of each petal adorn our yard with color that lasts through July.

Clematis grow best in cool, moist soil where the vine’s leaves get full sun.  They are easy to grow, don’t need to be pruned in season, and can live up to 50 years.  Their only required maintenance is training the vines to climb your trellis, mailbox or other upright object without falling over backwards from their own weight.  Each day I interweave new growth into the latticed arbor, and eventually lean a trellis against the arbor to confine the exploding plant.  After a rain your clematis may droop from the extra weight, indicating just where you need to shore up the support.  Be their friend and they will reward you all summer with a brilliant display of foliage and color.

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