Though I’m betting ol’ Frank never laid eyes on Clematis heracleifolia, I’m still going to make reference to that classic cocktail standard like he had. I suppose I could beg the question “what else”, sounding a little cliche at the incinuation that the only August-blooming plants worth raising a glass to are, of course, the bush or tube clematis. But frankly, that’s even a little overboard for me. With over 250,000 flowering plant species on this globe, I’m sure I’ve missed gardening with one or two (only) that could excite me so on the ides of August. For now, though, I’m content with my clematis.
With purple cloying my fingertips tonight, I can’t help but extol a few of the many virtues of these fall-blooming, non-vining clematis. Inevitably, if I say “clematis”, most would think ‘Jackmannii’, the enduring purple rambler that’s climbed up everything from barns and doors to mugo pines and even the occasional ,well-tended trellis. So for many, adding the adjectival phrase “non-vining” before the word “clematis” looks like an oxymoron, seemingly impossible when considering the countless queens of vertical spaces that have for so long comprised our public knowledge of the genus. In fact some of the best clematis, in my less than humble opinion, laugh in the face of trellises and much prefer to scramble about their neighbors or flow tidily just above ground from bunchy, stemmy clumps.
In fact some might say that a few of these non-viners verge on shrub-like, an assertion I’d agree with in the case of the easy-to-grow Clematis heracleifolia. The largest form I grow is just over four feet tall, rigid, and stout. A gale force wind assailed my garden over the weekend, laying flat almost everything or at the very least giving all my flora an eastward slant. But not so with the bush clematis. Tonight their many-flowered stalks held tall those perky, dangling blue blossoms for the camera, the stuff of dreams for plant-sick nerds like yours truly. The two forms pictured below came from my dear friends Steve and Caroline Bertrand at The Perennial Flower Farm. The light blue form boasts a rich, citrus and gardenia blended fragrance that flirts with adjectives like intoxicating and sumptuous. Remember, I have a poor sense of smell too! My mother just rolls her eyes and smiles at each sniff. Truly delicious! I don’t know that it has a formal cultivar name, but ‘Citrus Caroline’ seems altogether perfect. I’ll suggest that on my next visit. The other form has cobalt blue flowers that contrast the golden, shimmerous foliage of my beauty bush in fine style. The flowers look bigger, have longer pedicels (that’s the little “stalk” that attaches flowers to the flower stalk, in laymen’s terms), and dangle, dangle in a different way than the former too.
What do you need to know about growing them? They’re easy, real easy. Spot them a home in part shade, give them good drainage, and plant them nearby plenty of pretty perennials and you’ve got a classic vignette that’ll have everyone envious of your outlandish creative abilities. These plants are real doers! Go for it!
(And in all honesty I must admit–I do get a kick from champagne.)