Even plantaholics who feel they don’t have room for just one more plant won’t be able to resist our alluring cast of climbing spring dazzlers. Read on for all clematis great and small that flower their socks off early in the year. There’s a wealth of riches to choose from, so let’s dive straight in.
Clematis are one of the most versatile groups of plants and come in all sizes making them perfect for rolling acres or bijou city patios, balconies and roof terraces. It’s a common misconception that their flowering glory is reserved for summer since clematis flower in winter, spring, summer and autumn depending on variety.
Whilst summer–blooming clematis tends to have larger flowers and often prefer a sunny spot, some spring-flowerers can easily cope with full and partial shade since it’s their habit to scramble upward looking for light. All the following will grow well in any reasonable, moist soil. Early-flowering clematis requires a light haircut after flowering, whilst you can shorten any overlong shoots or stems of the larger spring-flowering clematis immediately after flowering.
All clematis like to be planted deep. You can afford to drop the root ball slightly below the soil surface, even burying the first pair of leaf buds. Most clematis problems come from clematis that is shallowly planted and if you go that little deeper, you’ll normally avoid common ailments such as frost damage and clematis wilt.
Small, but perfectly packaged
The Alpine group are tough as old boots despite their daintiness and Clematis ‘Frances Rivis’ (H.3m x S. 1.5m) is a stunner. The gorgeous belled pale purple-blue flowers from April to May are succeeded by silken seed heads as diverting as the ease in growing it. Just prune after flowering to restrict the size and spread. Flowers are more profuse in full sun, but it punches above its weight for those with windy sites, pergolas, garden arches and roof terraces or just leave to scramble charmingly along fences or through flowerbeds.
The joyful waterfall of damask-white flowers with appealing apple green eyes proves love, at first sight, is real after all. Clematis ‘Early Sensation’ (H.2m x S. 2m) is literally smothered in snowy blooms from March to April.
Hold on to your hat, this one’s a beaut!
Long-flowering, check. Evergreen, check. North, East, South or West, no problem, happy in full shade to full sun and everything in between. C. cirrhosa ‘Lansdowne Gem’ (H.3.5m x S.3.5m) has got everything going for it. Rich, deep claret peel-like flowers from…wait for it…December to March. What are you waiting for?
Flowering from March to April, Clematis ‘Fragrant Oberon’ (H.1.8m x S.1m) is one of the smaller spring clematis with a big reputation for being amongst the most highly scented. If you haven’t met it yet, allow us to introduce you. Creamy flowers studded with fresh green stamens, their tips dotted white resemble the prettiest blooms you’ve ever seen. And it’s evergreen to boot so great for screening in small spaces including balconies and roof terraces.
Let’s move on to the big boys!
Clematis ‘Elizabeth’ (H. 8m x S.3m) is a corker, but you’ll need some room. Highly favoured for its soft rose-pink fragrant flowers and flowering from May to June, it’s an explosion of vernal happiness. It’s probably best left where it can scramble unchecked against walls, fences and is really handy in helping camouflage unsightly sheds, ugly outbuildings and eyesores.
The Montanas probably require no introduction, but if you’ve got the space they are uber-reliable, flower madly and will easily cover a medium-sized pergola within a season or two.
- Montana var. Montana (H. 6m x S.5m) has abundant light pink, (some might argue, lilac) flowers, but we’re sticking with pink. With masses of flowers from May to June, the only problem you’ll encounter is kerbing its enthusiasm.
- montana ‘Marjorie’ (H.4.5m x 4.5m) will be climbing the walls in no time. Creamy, large flowers with salmon-pink banding are about as seductive as climbers can get. Another coper of any aspect and the spectacular colour deepens as the blooms age.
Spoiled for choice? Go mad, plant as many as you can cram in. (Wink, wink.)