Ten years ago, clematis enthusiast and member of the International
Society, Peter Keeping, couldn't find a single clematis plant at his
nursery. Now, even a national grocery chain offers a wide range of
colourful climbers, and gardeners across the country are clamouring for
Here are Peter's growing tips for successfully
growing these flowering
1. When planting a clematis, it's important to
bury the crown of the
plant at least two inches (6 cm) below the surface of the ground to
more stems to grow from the base. The more stems the plant grows the
the coverage and the less susceptible the plant becomes to disease.
any leaves that grow beneath the soil level. If the plant is very young
(grown in a two inch (6 cm) pot or smaller), bury the plant deeply, but
keep soil away from the stems until autumn. Then, build up the level of
the soil with compost or good topsoil when the stems have seasoned.
At the bottom and around the sides of the planting
hole, Peter adds
bonemeal which breaks down slowly, providing nutrients to clematis
by the time they've grown into the planting hole.
Finally, Peter stresses that newly planted
clematis need water, water,
water. So, water deeply and frequently until the plant is established.
2. Clematis absolutely demand good drainage. If
water stands on the
surface of the planting hole, your soil needs to be amended to provide
better drainage. Either add sand to the soil, or line the bottom of the
hole with a layer of gravel.
3. Clematis roots need to keep cool. Peter likes
to plant a largeleaved
hosta at the base of his clematis. The hosta leaves shade the roots of
the clematis, keeping them cool and happy. Any ground cover plant also
will serve the purpose, but Peter prefers hosta because their roots are
shallow and won't compete for nutrients with the deeply buried roots of
the clematis. If a ground cover just won't work in your situation,
also recommends shading the base of the plant with patio stones or
4. To encourage good flowering, Peter recommends
onto the surface of the soil at planting time. For mature plants, add
once in the spring and again in June. Your clematis will thank you with
lots of colourful blossoms.
5. Finally, prune judiciously. If the stems of
very young plants seem
thin, pinch them back to just above a set of buds. This causes the
to "thicken up", making them tougher and more resistant to damage. It
encourages the plant to produce more stems, and as we noted above, more
stems means faster coverage and greater disease resistance.
Although it's difficult for someone who grows over 100 varieties of
clematis to pick favourites, Peter loves the double white blooms of
Queen', the medium blue of 'Elsa Spath', and the pure white blossoms of
'Duchess of Edinborough'. He also mentions two spectacular plants,
good for larger spaces -- the autumn blooming
which thrives even in half shade, and the very fragrant "old man's
Clematis vitalba which almost overwhelms
the Keepings' mulberry
tree. Two very tough clematis that Peter recommends, especially for
regions of the country are Clematis x jackmanii and
The latter is very freeflowering, with nodding yellow blossoms which
bloom from July to September. The jackmanii clematis is an old reliable
climber, easily growing to three metres with large, deep purple
By following these growing tips, you'll have clematis climbing the
of your garden in no time at all. For more information about clematis,
join the International Clematis Society. Members receive two
each year, paticipate in a Seed Exchange, and have opportunities to
and meet with other clematis growers in over 23 countries around the
Membership is $30.00 (US).
For more information on clematis, logon
to the web site of The
International Clematis Society.