Thursday, 3 March 2011

Winter Flowering Clematis...

Everyone loves Clematis and there must be one of these delightful climbers to suit every particular taste. There are hundreds of different varieties to choose from in all possible colours and character. Flowers that can range from dinner-plate sized summer beauties to tiny nodding bells. From tree swamping, telegraph pole smothering, wall hiding blankets of foliage and flower to much more modest scramblers. Even if you were so fussy that none took your fancy today, with dozens of newly bred varieties coming to market each season, it surely would not be long before one did.

The most commonly seen and certainly the most noticeable are the extensive and rampant spring flowering ‘montanas,’ producing avalanches of white or pinkish bloom in May. Through summer and into autumn it is then the turn of the showiest cultivars with unbelievably large flowers, and from start to finish the many daintier and more delicately beautiful natural species ably fill in the gaps. 

There is even a winter flowering form. Clematis cirrhosa ‘Balearica’ is its name, and its first flowers were opening way back in November with fresh ones still coming out now. As the scientific name implies, it is originally from the Balearic Islands, or Mallorca to you and me. There, it enjoys stronger winter sunshine and a milder climate than we can give it, but happily it does not object too strongly to our cold grey skies. The deep snow and deep-freeze conditions here just before Christmas stopped those flowers for a while, but our more standard winter chill it takes in its stride.
The small, nodding flowers hang down in groups from the leaf axils on thin flexible stems. Four petalled, they are creamy on the outside and attractively spotted with reddish brown speckles within. They reward closer inspection by looking up into their pendant bells so are best planted on a pergola, over a path or near a doorway. They have a faint citrus fragrance and both discerning gardeners and the earliest bees will seek them out on sunny days.
These evergreen winter flowering clematis also have the advantage of prettily cut, ferny foliage which takes on beautiful bronzish hues in the coldest weather. When, after many years they eventually become an impenetrable tangle of twigs too high to enjoy, simply cut everything off after flowering and they will helpfully and reliably start out afresh and be back in bloom for Christmas.

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