Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Clematis: The Puzzling Queen

Clematis is a versatile and rewarding vine to grow in one's garden. I think of them as the 'Queen' of vines. I love them and find them very easy to grow, but a bit puzzling because of the pruning requirements.

After umpteen years of gardening and doing it a bit haphazardly I might add, I have decided to get organized and to learn so much more. One of the things I need to learn is not only how to prune clematis, but which clematis needs which type of pruning. That would assume the gardener knew what type of clematis he or she planted in the first place! I don't keep good enough records so this is a problem for me. I am slowly working on that problem now that I generally understand clematis.

Clematis are grouped into three groups for the purpose of pruning. You must know the variety you planted in order to know which group it is in and how to prune it. According to Sandra Mason from The University of Illinois (, the three groups are known as: Group 1, Group 2, and Group 3.

Group 1 clematis bloom on old wood and generally bloom between April and May. Some Group 1 varieties I grow are: C. macropetala, C. montana and 'Snow Queen'. Others in this group include: C. armandii, C. alpina and C. cirrhosa. This group requires no pruning except for the occasional trimming of dead. The four varieties pictured on the arch fall into this group (I think). I believe this is right because I have never pruned these four clematis for fear of destroying them. They have still bloomed wonderfully so I am really thinking Group 1?

Group 2 clematis bloom mid-season and are double or semi-double cultivars. This group will repeat bloom and needs only light pruning. If cut to the ground it will still bloom, though later in the season. Some Group 2 clematis I grow are: 'Nelly Moser' and 'Miss Bateman'. Miss Bateman is growing on a picket fence in my lower garden (fourth picture with birdhouse). I know this because I recently found the label stuck into the ground next to the vine. What a relief! I have now logged it so I do not have to rely only on the label in the future. I have not pruned these clematis either. Come to think of it, I don't prune any of my clematis though I should.

Group 3 clematis bloom on new wood and include many brilliant and favored cultivars. This clematis should be pruned in early spring before new growth begins. If it is not pruned, it will likely produce blooms only at the top of the vine out of sight of the gardener. Some Group 3 cultivars I grow are: 'Jackmanii', Sweet Autumn Clematis, 'Comtesse de Bouchard', 'Ernest Markham', 'Henryi', and 'Crimson Star'.

The black metal arbor over my side gate is the crowning glory of my clematis. Every time I walk through this arbor I feel like I am in Hawaii or some other tropical location. I have never been to Hawaii, but somehow envision it with lovely draping flowers hanging from the trees. The flowers might be mandivilla or bougainvillea and not clematis, but I feel the clematis takes its place here in my locale. It is kind of neat how the flowers open all the way up the arbor and just seem to drape themselves around it. As an added bonus, the spent flowers and ensuing seed heads are so intriguing. They remain on the vine all winter and somewhat resemble spiders with twiny tendrils coming from the center of the spent flower. Not all clematis have the same seed pods, so you might want to be sure and buy it not only for the flower, but for the seedpod.

From now on when buying and purchasing clematis, I am researching and selecting exactly the right clematis for the purpose intended. I recently installed two twin arbors upon which to grow clematis. I chose 'Crimson Star' in Group 3. Crimson Star should bloom a large brilliant red and only on new wood. I desired the Group 3 because I wanted to be able to control its growth. As you can see on the above arbor, clematis can get quite large and bulky. They become a tangled mess after just a few years. Finally, I am getting it together by choosing the right plant for the right spot and for my purposes. It felt good but we'll see if it works out. That is the part about gardening that can never be predicted, whether or not all will go according to the 'best laid plans'.

How do you grow clematis now that you know a little about pruning? Well, I can only tell you how I grow my clematis. First and foremost they need a support on which to twine. The support needs to be fairly thin so the clematis can grasp it with its tendrils. Clematis will not stick to large smooth poles and you will have to tie it up if this is what you are using. I had to add a criss cross of metal wiring between the two support poles of this arbor in order for the clematis to be fully supported. Even then I do have to sometimes tie and direct the growth. Another technique for supporting clematis is to plant a clematis at the base of a small tree or shrub and allow the clematis to twine into the tree or shrub. It is a beautiful effect, but one I have had limited success with since the clematis cannot get all the sun it really needs when planted below a tree. You can see one of my clematis blooming among the crabapple leaves in the last picture. I have planted clematis at the base of all my crabapples and learned this is an old gardener's trick. I love learning secrets from experienced gardeners, secrets not found in gardening books.
Once you have a good support, take time to prepare the hole. I add compost and plant my clematis deeply. Most clematis like full sun with their roots shaded. Shading can be accomplished by simply placing stones on or near the base of the clematis. These four clematis growing on this arbor are planted in less than ideal soil conditions and are cramped, but they have excelled. The clematis growing on my picket fence have much better conditions but only get part sun. They are also doing well. Clematis are truly not difficult to grow, the difficult part is the pruning, but only because you have to keep good records of the 'Queens' you plant in your garden.

in the garden....


  1. I love Clematis but have never had any. I bought several of them a few years ago and Christy planted them for me along the outside of the dogs fence. Not one of them came up!! I wonder if Papa got them when weed wacking? :(

    Thought we would see Dawn's orange friend today. That killing curiosity is getting bad!!

  2. Mom, Papa probably did get your clematis weedwhacking. I think you should plant one by your Seven Sisters rose and let it grow up the rose. Dawn will post on Friday. Tomorrow is "To Do" and I need to prepare it! So little time..

  3. Hi Guys,
    I have one clematis and I think its Nelle because I wanted the double bloomer. I have it planted between two picket fence parts around the wanna-be pond, I don't know if it will come back this year because it was dwindling in the last few years and the pond is well over flood stage. If it does,I just may pick up another one, my idea was to plant between all the parts of a fence. I didn't know they needed pruning, guess I'll have to stay with group two for the light pruning.
    Mom, the text is done but I needed afew outside pics and as you much rain yesterday. I made a profile though and I hope my picture comes up. My all time fave and skinnier times too! Off to finish putting the pics in before dance today.

  4. We see a blooming vine around mailboxes here and I had thought it might be Clematis but I dont think so now after reading this posting Tina... Whatever I am seeing here, Blooms all summer and into fall. I was thinking of putting whatever I am seeing by our mailbox but I dont believe we get enough sun on the mailbox. We only get a few hours of morning sunshine then a tad of evening. Don’t think I will go with Clematis as it seems to grow much larger then I had thought. Maybe some in the garden on the chain link fence in the background would be pretty….

    Honey Suckle blooming and smelling divine! Honey suckles reminds me of my childhood and I love that scent. We would sip the nectar as kids. Kept us entertained for hours! LOL…

  5. Mimi-
    Papa did weed wack them down. I put tomato things around them so he wouldn't and went out several times to check on them, but they didn't stop him from destroying them. Men!

  6. I like clematis but had no luck with them--could be I didn't know anything about them.

    Skeeter, I can't believe I found someone else that did the same thing when they were kids--pull the stamen from the center of the Honey Suckle bloom & sip it. Boy that was heaven. Like you said it would entertain for hrs.
    It does sound like the Clematis could be a bit of a problem if let go. I didn't know they got so tall.

    I'm waiting for the results of the little yellow fella. I haven't found him in the Eastern U.S. list of birds.

    Have a good day, all.

  7. Never sucked on Clematis as a kid but we did suck on Lilacs. I don't even remember Clematis being around when I was a kid and come to think of it I can't think of anyone now that has it in down east Maine where I grew up.

    Oh ya Christy men are great!! LOL
    Can't live with em but can't live without em. I better not complain cause he is watching me!!!

    Lola I am voting for the bird being a lost flycatcher or a sparrow.

  8. You guys are killing me! Can't tell it would ruin it.

  9. Dawn,
    Good!!! Cause you and YOUR sister are killing me....Oh you girls! LOL

    BTW You have not given me an answer about the 3rd. That will be on Saturday so I do know it won't be after school. But have no idea what time. Remember in March we went to the wake for David's last remaining aunt. Well I think the service for her is this Saturday and we really should go but if Zack is gonna be playing
    David can go by himself and I will go to watch Zack. Depending on the time I may be able to make an apperence at the church for a few mintues. The get together after the service will be downstairs in the Kellogg church.

  10. Lola- We use to have a honey suckle out back of our house in North Carolina. We would suck on it too and loved it. Great memory. There also use to be a bird that would nest it, she hated when we went near her nest!

  11. Dawn, If your clematis doesn't come back, you should plant another. Great vines and I love all vines. Everyone can see your post Friday!

    Skeeter, Clematis is known as the 'mailbox' vine. Alot of folks plant it there. Kind of cool. It does get big but not like some vines like wisteria or silver lace.

    Christinelynn, Hello! I didn't know you remembered our honeysuckly. Now the million dollar question. What type of bird nested in it?

    Lola, Maybe it is too hot down there or maybe they like a chilling period? Not sure. Do you ever see it growing down there?

    Mom, Be patient until Friday. You will soon see Dawn's little bird friend. Friday comes soon enough-too soon sometimes! Ah the time thing. It goes by so fast.

  12. Hi Tina, loved your post about the clemmies, as we call them. I never prune any of mine, because like you I didn't know which group they were in. You gave us a lot of information about that so maybe some pruning might get done now. My older ones had been moved several times due to house construction projects, they don't like to be moved at all. I have some new ones now on my new arbor, Nellie Moser, Dr. Ruppel and Jackmanii. They are just babies so won't need any pruning for a while anyway. Your arbor is lovely with that covering of flowers.

  13. Hello Everyone, just back from the doctor and a run to Lowe's, everything unloaded and taking a break.

    Tina, my oldest clematis was beginning to get very ugly and tangled looking. So this past February I started researching as how to prune it and I did get it trimmed up really nice. It isn't in full bloom as yet but is just loaded with buds.

    Skeeter, I believe the plant you are talking about on the mailboxes is a mandevilla. They are very pretty, but do not winter here.

  14. Mom, it starts at 10 am and is a double header, if you can't make it that's fine. The 17th is when he'll really play. Hopefully.
    Tina, thought friday was done 'cept the date but I just realized I'm sure I need to add the part I forgot, the end. Going back to do so. I don't know how to put the right date in, so can you? I'll adjust the spaces on fri 'cause it doesn't seem to keep them. I would definatly have no time if I did this everyday. Wow!
    And I'm making myself not peek.

  15. Ahh, don't know what I did, but it changed font on the last sentence, can you fix that also? I don't dare touch that stuff yet.

  16. Nina, I bet it is Mandeville! I saw that in the garden center. Will have to research it to see if it will survive and bloom with little sun...

    Glad Zach is going to play even if just batting and running, that is something...

    If all goes well, I will be back in the yard tomorrow! Yippee...

  17. Tina,

    Thank you, you helped me identify my Clematis group....I just purchased a C montana Rubens grp 1 smells of vanilla and have Nellie Moser grp 2.

    Henrii and jackmanni disappeared I miss them both, such perfect companions on the trellis ...they were unhappy in too shady conditions!

    Lovely photos Tina and I agree with you, they re Queen of the Vines.


  18. Tina, you can change the last sentence font if you want, but I worked around it.

  19. Hi everyone! Busy day here with the kiddos --picnic and fun day was good. Boy number 2 wasn't feeling well --had to take him to see daddy at the ER. Not sure what he has but is coming down with something:( Had a meeting at the high school about sports --now that's what I'm talking about:0) Best thing today --my boy number 1 might give cross country a try this fall --I am SOOOOOO EXCITED!!!! I guess I'll have to wait and see if that is what he chooses --if he had his way he'd sign up for football --all 5 feet and 90 pounds of him, lol. Wouldn't be bad but the high school fellas sure are big these days --so I don't see that happening. Now --cross country --YES!!!! Oh, did I say I am pretty excited --
    Tina --I am once again amazed with your post on clematis --I was wondering what was growing around all these mailboxes in the subdivision --now I know:0) I love the purple color --so pretty.
    Another busy day tomorrow --my yard is calling me to pull out red beauty --fun, fun, fun! Night y'all

  20. Frances, I like Nelly Moser a whole lot. I bet you'll love it best. These clematis have been growing here for five years. Finally they have arrived! Yours will grow fast even though they are small now.

    Nina, I know you can't wait until those buds open. Occasionally it is ok to rejuvenate a clematis. Doesn't seem to hurt them at all does it?

    Dawn, Your post is all fixed and ready to go on Friday. If you want you can just open it and click publish post. Hopefully the spacing will be ok. Sometimes it doesn't hurt to check it but I did fix it all tonight. Nice pics.

    Skeeter, I love mandevilla but like Nina said it is not hardy here. It might do well there but even if you had to bring it in the house it is so beautiful.

    Gail, Even though the group 3s are so flashy, I am leaning toward liking the first two groups-no fuss no muss. You'll like your new two. I am hoping to come for a visit soon. Maybe the 20 prior to PPS but I have a slight conflict with garden club so I will have to see as we get closer. Let me know if that is ok. I so want to see your garden in person and I think I can drag Geri along. She is not so happy with May's subject but I am hoping she comes anyhow. If that doesn't work out I'll come down another time if that is ok?

    Anonymous, I hope boy 2 gets better. Jimmy all of a sudden got sick on Monday. I think allergies. He had general malaise and stuffy nose. Hopefully it will pass but being sick enough to go to the hospital doesn't sound good.

    Boy 1 definitely needs to go out for cross country like mom and dad. He ran the 5k in what 21 or 24minutes? That is like speedy fast!

    The clematis are beautiful everywhere this year and I am not surprised it is all around your neighborhood on the mailboxes. Best cut your yard tomorrow as rain is expected Friday. Yahoo, we need it as always.

  21. Anonymous, how exciting about the x country, the elem school starts our kids in 3rd grade only because one of the long time teachers offers her time and we've had donated equipment. Zack had a strong urge to ski, then broke both growth plates in his ankle! Downhill though, after x country with this teacher and he enjoyed the activity with her. Downhilled with the scouts. Now we have the thumb with baseball practice, told him I preferred him playing as hard as he does but it comes with a price. Football is his, never a injury, natural knack for it, roughs the other guys up. The padding is pretty good, the smaller guys play but have had broken wrist and ribs, still return though, like the hype. Zacks one of those big freshman, met with the clinic this week and they commented about how they believed his was older because of his size, 250 and 6 ft and not fluffy. Is #1 rowdy? They are the best. Outside tom. working on the roses. Yippe Skippy!!!

  22. Okay, so its running and not skiing, duh. Thought there was a special area. Guess I can't resist a conversation about football.

  23. Dawn and Anonymous you 2 make a good pair....good mommy's and so cute about it all.

    We are all set for Saturday Dawn as I was wrong, the service for Harriet is on Sunday. Lordy, lordy I will be a gag about this leaves my house once a month if I am forced into it. I am going to do lunch with Tom at the golf course on the base tomorrow, Zack's games on Sat and the service on Sun. Then Sunday night going to Terri-Lynn's for supper. I will have to stay home for 3 months! Oh dear, sigh. My date tomorrow is not with Tom Soucy but Tom Rothwell. But speaking of Tom Soucy, on the news tonight they have flooding going on up in "the county" and I was reading the paper and not really paying attention and all of a sudden I realized there was a voice that I recognized so I looked at tv and it was Tom's brother. His house had 4 feet of water in it. Mess up there. I called Tom and he was watching news on 13 and it was on 6 so he was gonna watch 6 at the 11pm news as did David and I.

    Anonymous I hope your #2 boy is A okay in the morning, if not Daddy will fix him up. Sounds like #1 just might be a chip of the ole block!!! Go #1!!!!

  24. Dawn, What are you doing to the roses?

    Mom, This morning's news has the Maine flooding on it. St. John's River way high. What a mess. You'll be busy this week. Don't overdo it.

  25. I saw the flooding on our news this morning too. Bad stuff...

  26. Mom- I remember that she was sorta a gray-brown color, but I was only like 9 when we moved from there. I can't remember what she was, that is if I ever knew. I remember her hitting me in the head for being to close to her nest and then the little guy jumped out. We chased him around and put him back in the nest and his damn mother was all over us the whole time! Liz and I were awful...just loved looking at the little baby. i love seeing the osprey here in Bath between the two sides of route one. They are home for the season. This morning driving to work one was on its way to the nest with a new stick. Made him look like he had a sparrow tail! Double take on that one!

  27. Christine, It was a robin's nest. They love honeysuckle to nest in.

    Do osprey's have large nests like eagles? I hear they do. Must be a sight.

  28. I thought that they were robins but was not totally was a LONG time ago, almost 20 years! I can't believe something a long time is already 20 years!!!! I am getting up there in age!*tears*

    They are large like eagle nests. The one that I see all the time driving in and out of Bath is on a power line tower, so it is very visible.

    They just put camera's up last year at The Taste of Maine restaurant so that customers could watch the nest that they have there. Rude if you ask me, but since it is there and there is nothing that I can do about it I would love to go eat there just to see the babies!

  29. Christy,

    The Taste if Maine is a place that has good food but if you do not eat the special it is quite pricey (a tourist trap). I have eaten there several times but not for 2 or 3 years one day when Heather and I were on a jaunt to Big Al's.
    Unless going to Big Al's I actually do not get down that way very often. Larry Crooker used to own it but think he got outta it as
    I think it was too much to do both now that he lives here in town full time and also owns Estes.
    Not sure if someone else in the Crooker family has it now or not but think one of his sibblings has it now. It is much, much better than Estes! I just will not ever go to Estes ever again and have not for many years. Years ago it was a great place to go. Can't see the majestic birds at Captain Mikes but if you want seafood that is the place to go. Mike and his wife Patti both worked at Estes till they started their own place and it is great and Estes has never been the same. Their prices are not bad, food always great and you never leave hungry. Mike and Patti know their stuff. Your Auntie Dawn used to babysit their kids when she was a teenager and now they are well into adulthood. OMG I am getting toooooo old!!!!

  30. I have eaten there a few times and do like it. Margaret and I need to get together sometime and have dinner again, i so rarely see her now:(

  31. We live 2 hours drive from the ocean and you would think that we would have some good places to eat seafood here but not so. That is why we enjoy going to Savannah or Charleston as we get our fill of seafood while there! We have good catfish here though, well according to the Saint and my parents, I don’t eat the stuff…

  32. Hi Tina, I just love Clematis but it's a toss up as to how many more I keep than I lose. I started out with I think it's Jackmanii (it was given to us so we're not sure) and it's done very well. I bought Nellie Moser and wanted to have them mix together but Nellie left us before we got to see it. Then I bought Bee's Jubilee and it was beautiful for one summer. I think the water from the neighbor pointing his drain our way killed it so I'm not going to take ALL of the blame there. Later I bought Josephine and she is gorgeous but we planted her in the wrong place so moved her and hoping she'll be happy this year. And a couple of years ago I bought Plena something and so far so good on her. So I have to say I am trying but at the same time I would love about 20 more of them but am kind of afraid I'd only end up with 5 or 10. This was a great post - when I put mine on I'll have to link to it for people who want to know how to take care of them?
    By the way we use to suck on Honeysuckle growing up too. What a great memory!

  33. Hi Linda, I see you love clematis as well. They are super vines but I can never quite figure out how to prune them exactly:( Feel free to link to it and I'll be looking for your post on yours. They are difficult at times but so sweet too. Can't wait to see them bloom this year!