Sunday, May 10, 2015

Clearly Clever Clematis

Clematis albicoma
Not flamboyant like poppies or peonies, but for us devotees, nothing beats an herbaceous 'Viorna' clematis (Viorna is the name of a prominent semi-vining species in the Eastern woodlands that is the type of the sub-genus that includes the American clumping clematis: it has even been used as a Generic name for the section--not something I advocate). Superficially reminiscent of the Eurasian Clematis integrifolia--which I suspect they will prove to be related to as well one day--there is a great variation among and within the American clumpers: these pictures have been taken this past week at Denver Botanic Gardens and at my home. I begin with the rare Clematis albicoma, known from eight counties in Virginia and three in West Virginia) here blooming at Denver Botanic Gardens. The chartreuse flowers with a wonderfully hairy (albi=white; coma=hairdo) glow. How cool is that?

Clematis fremontii
I was privileged to see this in the wild north of Wichita on a wonderful fieldtrip four years ago led by Larry Vickerman, who directs Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield. I was struck the by the variability of flower color in the wild--and equally so with the colony I myself once planted at the entrance of the Rock Alpine Garden (I put in the personal note: quite a few artifacts of my tenure remain in that garden, but it has been so utterly transformed by my successors--especially Mike Kintgen--that these remnants are increasingly rare). You can't blame me for being proud of this one!

Clematis fremontii
Doesn't it look as though it's dancing?

Clematis fremontii
This one is beginning to form the incredible seedheads that are almost showier than the flowers when fully formed: they glisten gold and irridescent--incredible plant.

Clematis scottii
Mike Bone, propagator at Denver Botanic Gardens as well as the intrepid Curator of Steppe Collections, took me to a colony of this wonderful plant at the outskirts of Denver--I never dreamed it grew so close. I know it mostly from the Wet Mountain valley, where it is abundant.

Clematis fremontii x hirsutissima
Clematis pitcheri (? x fremontii)
I obtained this plant as Clematis pitcheri from Bluebird Nursery--and I suspect it may have some pitcheri in it--but since it only grows to a meter or so tall, and is much thicker leaved than true pitcheri, I wonder if it too doesn't represent a cross with C. fremontii? It seems to have hybrid vigor as you can see, and blooms on and off all summer....

Clematis integrifolia 'Mongolian Bells'
Our super clump of lavender blue Mongolian Bells in the perennial border that Jan oversees in my garden. She approves of this!

Clematis integrifolia 'Mongolian Bells'
And an even bluer form of the same grex growing in the Plant Select garden at Denver Botanic Gardens. Now to get this, the white and pink and purple forms for my home garden....

If you haven't had enough of these, I've referenced these again and again in past blogs....and more than that too: I'm clearly smitten!


  1. That Clematis fremontii...I bet the people who look down their noses at the thought of botanizing east of Denver have no idea. I had no idea on that clematis, and I lived under 2 hours south.

  2. The clematis seeds you sent me have grown into nice little plants. I look forward to seeding how they turn out.

  3. Thanks for yet another great post. Common lore has it that Clematis hate root competition, which suggests they should be planted at a safe distance from "competitors". Any truth to that?

    And in what kind of soil are C. albicoma, C. fremontii and C. scottii growing at DBG? (A little research tells me that C. albicoma, for instance, is native to shale barrens, but that doesn't help me decide how to plant the single seedling I have of this species.)

  4. If you look at most of the plants above you will see they're growing amongst other plants: I don't think root competition is any more of a consideration for these as for many perennials. I find that matching them with plants that complement their growth form helps (i.e., not too be or spready).They seem to do best in well drained loam. For us: you may need more drainage in wetter climates.

  5. Thanks, that's very helpful.


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