Burnett: Clematis earns its ‘Queen of the Vines’ nickname

The challenge is to choose one out of literally dozens of clematis varieties available to us.

There is no question the clematis comes by its nick name quite honestly: Queen of the Vines.

I have to say I have never owned one of these beauties but that is about to change very quickly. The next renovation/upgrade I am going to do is my backyard and I have reserved two spots where clematis will fit the bill.

Now the challenge is to choose one out of literally dozens of varieties available to us.

Older proven varieties such as Huldine, Nelly Moser, Ville de Lyon, Ernest Markham, Duchess of Edinburgh and of course Jackmanii are always a good bet. I grew up in the industry selling these and many other varieties and Jackmanii was by far the biggest seller.

This most popular variety was introduced way back in 1862 by nurseryman George Jackman, and was the first of the modern large-flowered hybrid clematises for gardens.

What a legacy when a person can introduce a cultivar of a plant that stands the test of time for more than 150 years and is still the most popular clematis sold today.

Thousands of cultivars have been introduced since then and Jackmanii still reigns king, er I mean queen.

Having said that, I think one of my choices will be Jackmanii out of sheer respect.

Now what will be the other? I saw a new variety this spring at Bylands called Ramona and I can’t recall seeing a clematis with such huge red flowers.  The varieties we used to call red were actually more a wine colour than red. Ramona is a true red.

Anyway, I have a year or so to make my clematis decisions as I’m taking my time with the backyard reno.

The clematis family of vines is a huge one and one of the distinctions between the many varieties is the pruning process. There are three groups each with its own pruning techniques.

Group A blooms on older wood from the previous season’s growth therefore with this group you just tidy and prune back the vine no later than June each year and the resulting new growth will bloom the following spring.

Group B is actually split into B1 and B2 types. Group B1 are the varieties that flower on wood that has been hardened by the previous season’s growth. Normal blooming patterns for this group consist of a heavy flush of flowers in May – June on the previous season’s growth followed by a second smaller flush of blooms in September on the current season’s growth. Group B (2) are the varieties that bloom simultaneously on last year’s growth and the current season’s growth. For both a light pruning in February works well and every second season a hard pruning such as is done with Group C should be done to re-new the vine.

Group C is simple. Just prune hard each early spring to 10 cm from the ground and you are good to go.

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