Clematis montana tetrarose in Newport.
IT SCRAMBLES everywhere and is brilliant at covering up a multitude of garden untidiness and starkness, covering fences or stumps in a carpet of foliage and bloom.
Clematis is a plant for almost every part of most seasons with ever more varieties flowering at different points in the year.
To my mind the simple C. montana in all its colours is the best and most vigorous, not only providing spring colour but subtle perfume too.
When we first moved in to our house nearly a quarter of a century ago, the snow white C. montana armandii was one of the first to be planted and it has developed into a formidable force requiring little attention.
It is now high in the canopy of several of the oaks and brings a splash of white among the early leaf of yellow and vibrant green.
It is a good year for clematis. In Newport’s Mount Pleasant Road, there is C. montana tetrarose in full bloom and out at Shide a fine bell-flowered Markham’s pink.
On Nettlestone Hill, there is a fine example of how clematis clings on — C. Rubens providing colourful decoration on the telephone lines.
All those, I reckon, are preferable to the more complex flowers and the mophead varieties, such as the pink C. proteus in my garden, which I have never liked but which I am loathe to take out.
Montana is probably the most trouble free when it comes to pruning.
Where I am blessed with as much scrambling space as it can handle, pruning has never been done and has always delighted year on year.
The Royal Horticultural Society is always the most reliable source of gardening information and tells me it should be pruned at the following times:
Group 1: Mid to late spring, after flowering.
Group 2: February, and after the first flush of flowers in early summer.
Group 3: February.
Group 1 comprises the early-blooming clematis that flower on shoots produced the previous season. They require no regular pruning except for the removal of faded flowers, if you fancy.
In subsequent years some training and perhaps thinning may be necessary.
If renovation is required, plants can be cut back to 15cm (6ins) from the base after flowering. This operation will affect flowering and should not be carried out again within three years because it seriously strains the plant.
Group 2 comprises the large-flowered cultivars that flower from May to June on short shoots developing from the previous year’s growth.
Some flower again in late summer on new growth.
They require only to have the flowers cut off, back to a large growth bud immediately below the flower as soon as flowering is over.
They can, if preferred, be left un-pruned other than for the removal of dead shoot ends in spring.
Group 3 comprises clematis that flower from mid to late summer on the terminal 60cm (2ft) or so of the current year’s growth.
If this type is left unpruned, growth will continue from where it ended the previous season, resulting in a tangled mass of growth, flowering often well above eye level and stems bare at the base.
These late-flowering clematis are best pruned back hard in February each year to the lowest pair of buds.
Some mid to late-summer flowering clematis may be pruned by combining methods two and three, to retain a basic framework while cutting other stems to the base. This extends the flowering season.
Good examples are Comtesse de Bouchaud AGM, Gipsy Queen AGM, Hagley Hybrid, Jackmanii, Jackmanii Superba, Perle d’Azur, Rouge Cardinal and Star of India. Prune herbaceous clematis, such as C. Heracleifolia, C. Integrifolia and C. Recta, to near ground level in late autumn or early spring.
A very old broom
I AM grateful for this snippet of what could be invaluable quiz trivia knowledge after my piece on cytisus — otherwise known as broom — last week.
It turns out broom is integral to the Plantagenet name, the shrub securing a royal place in our history.
The traditional explanation, dating back to 1605, for the Plantagenet name is Geoffrey Plante Genest wore a sprig of broom (then known as the planta genista) in his bonnet, or possibly planted it to improve his hunting 'covers’.
Your chance to grow a distinctive IW tomato
THE Queen of Hearts tomato plants donated by Eddie Grove to spread the strain throughout the Island are now ready for a handful of lucky gardeners.
I have 20 or so which I have carefully been bringing on in the greenhouse and they are now ready for interested takers (a maximum of two each, I’m afraid).
I have had a couple of requests already and if you gardeners out there would like one or two each, e-mail me or send a letter and I will make sure the first come will be first served.
As readers will know, Queen of Hearts was developed by Stan Jackson, from Northwood, over many years, has a distinctive heart shape and is tasty and thin skinned.
Simply e-mail or write and I will ensure they are ready to collect in our front office at Brannon House, 123 Pyle Street in Newport, PO34 5AP on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday next week.
I can be e-mailed, as ever, at email@example.com and I will ring or e-mail to let you know if you have been successful.
A suggested donation of 50p per plant will go to the Send a Cow charity, which provides livestock for people in developing countries.