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Clematis vines aren’t really that fussy

Clematis is a group of plants that seem too complicated to grow but, in fact, are not. But with names like ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud,’ ‘Madame Edouard Andre,’ and ‘Vyvyan Pennell,’ I was a bit apprehensive to try growing this flowering vine.

Success is in the details. One major detail is knowing the three clematis groups: early flowering, which flower in early spring on last year’s growth; large-flowered hybrids, which bloom in early summer on last year’s growth and perhaps again in late summer or fall on new growth; and late flowering, which bloom on new growth in summer. Knowing which one you have will help you maintain them correctly without cutting off all the flower buds.

Plant Clematis where the soil is shaded and cool, but the vine can still receive five to six hours of sunlight. Sunlight is necessary for prolific bud set and flowering. Soil should be moist but well-drained; plants do best with a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch and/or a groundcover planted around them to shade the soil.

Avoid the biggest hazard—their thin, delicate stems break easily. Buy full, lush plants in case you break off a few stems when planting. If you have an energetic pet, a small chicken wire frame around the base may help avoid the accidental smashing. A supportive trellis with a structure that is not bulky for the fine stems to climb on is essential, and helps show off the amazing flowers.

Clematis ‘Reflections’ is a compact variety I tried growing. Shown here, it grows only 6 feet and has 3- to 4-inch lilac blue flowers that cover the plant from top to bottom. It flowers from early to late summer and is a perfect addition to my garden.

Shelly Nold from the September 2015 issue.

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