Wednesday, May 16, 2007

First Clematis blooms of the season: Meet Mrs. James Mason

I was quite surprised that this Clematis bloomed so easily after being moved just a month ago. But Clematis continue to surprise me with the ease of care. This is Mrs. James Mason with several buds ready to open when these ones finish. It gets 8 to 10 feet tall and could very well be too large for this trellis, but once it reaches the top, I am going to start keeping it trimmed. This will force the growth back into the lower part of the vine and also produce more blooms. It isn't supposed to bloom until June, but as you can see, it is a few weeks early. It will take a break after the first flush of blooms and not bloom again for another month. I have this planted on the south side of the house, but it does get a couple of hours of mid-day shade. It isn't mulched particularly thick, but I do have some glass balls sitting at the base, which helps act as a mulch by keeping those precious roots shaded.

I am not positive where I picked this Clematis up at, very possibly at our local Kroger grocery store several years ago. I dug it up and moved it with me to our country house a year and a half ago, then moved it again after finding a temporary permanent location. Then a month ago it was moved again. So hardy!

I used to be intimidated by Clematis. All the hype over care and shading the roots and watching out for Clematis Wilt and when to trim and how much and that they don't like to be moved.

I have found that Clematis is one of the easiest perennials to grow. Yes, I have been hit with Clematis Wilt. You will know when you have it. One day the vine is going gangbusters, a few hours later all of the foliage is wilted and hanging down so sad looking. Sometimes it is the entire vine, sometimes it is just one of branches. When this happens, as it can, I just cut back below the wilted area and remove that portion. There is no reason to leave it. Wishful thinking will not stop the wilt, it will only make it worse. So cut it and forget it. It may look small and pitiful, but it will bounce back. Better to cut it and have a small and pitiful vine than to leave it and allow it to spread, then you won't get any blooms at all. When you remove that wilted foliage, do not leave it laying on the ground by the plant, toss it in the compost or the trash. The Wilt can still continue to spread to the rest of the plant if left laying near it.

Other than the wilt, I believe Clematis are one of the most versatile plants around. You can get almost any height of vine needed, almost any color you love. They can be planted on trellises, trained on walls, planted at the base of some evergreens and allow to intertwine and bloom on them, they can be allowed to grow along the ground and ramble as a beautiful ground cover.

There is one location that many people grow Clematis that I do not agree with and that is the mailbox pole. We had a mail delivery lady who was allergic to bee stings and was quite worried about delivering mail to those who had any tall flowers or flowering vines on the mailbox post due to the occasional bees. I have never been one for planting up the mailbox post, so ours was plain and she thanked me for that.

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