I like a garden that looks relaxed, as long as it has a shapely structure, a sort of backbone to it, an informal, sprawling mass of plants is what does it for me. Gardens that are trimmed and tidied to within an inch of their lives don’t appeal, maybe you feel differently? In any case, your own garden style is what really matters.
Though sprawling informality doesn’t apply to vegetable gardens, they need labels, order and tidiness to make it easy to keep an eye on everything.
My ideal of a relaxed garden includes a good number of climbing plants. A garden wall or building always looks better clothed in a climbing plant like a Clematis, and they’re also very nice stretching up through a shrub or tree. They take up such a small amount of space on the ground, their footprint is tiny compared to the amount of leafy, flowery growth they make, so it’s easy to find room for one and cover the walls as well as the ground.
I want to plant a couple of clematis in our garden in September, the question though is which one? So I paid special attention to the Clematis nurseries and their magnificent displays in the Plant Marquee at the Chelsea Flower Show last month.These specialist nurseries grow and sell lots of different types.
The choice is huge:
- there’s the colour to think about, from tasteful white to gaudy stripes
- the size of the flowers, I like small to medium but you can also get some whoppers if that’s your thing,
- most shed their leaves in autumn, but Clematis armandii and Clematis cirrhosa are evergreen.
Then all that’s needed is a sunny spot where their roots will be in cool shade in rich well-drained soil.
We’re always told to plant in the ground so the soil is at the same level as it was in the pot, but Clematis are the exception. Plant so that the lowest 10cm/4in of green stem is below the ground, then if they’re struck by clematis wilt they may re-grow from beneath the soil.
Pruning seems like a bit of a stumbling block, but it isn’t difficult, you just need to know the name of the Clematis to find out which of the three groups it belongs to, each group is pruned at a different time, depending on when they flower:
These are usually the really vigorous growers, like Clematis montana, or Clematis alpina. They need little or no pruning, if necessary it’s done after flowering.
The Nelly Moser types, these have large, showy flowers that appear in spring and then later in the summer. Cut them back quite hard every 3 or 4 years.
Viticella types flower in late summer on stems that have grown that year, they’re cut back to about 15cm/6in above the ground in late winter/early spring every year. They’re the ones to choose if you want to grow it through a shrub because it’s easy to see where to cut them, and they’re just more straightforward to prune.
I haven’t finally decided on which ones to choose ….. but I think Clematis Pistachio will be one of them.
all photos: Jill Anderson.