How to grow clematis this summer | THE COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER

The beginning of June is the season for clematis, queen of the vines.

The beginning of June is summer clematis season. This queen of the vines grows better in our cool summer climate than anyplace else in the world – so invest in a clematis plant this week and let the queen rule your garden.

The Easiest to grow clematis vines:

Purple reigns royal when it comes to which clematis do best in Western Washington. The deep purple blooms of clematis jackmanii is one of the most reliable to bloom and will scramble through an evergreen and ever-boring hedge. If you want a real drama mama plant Nelly Moser and enjoy huge blooms of lavender with deeper purple stripes. The clematis montana varieties grow fast and large and become quite heavy so use these to cover entire sheds or building. There are hundreds of other clematis that love to grow in Western Washington. Some such as the Raymond Everson compact clematis (Cezanne, Picardy) have been bred to grow in containers. Just prune these down to two feet high each winter. Some clematis flower in the fall such as ‘Sweet Autumn’ clematis. The real rock stars when it comes to clematis are those varieties that refuse to be defined and just bloom all summer — sometimes early, sometimes late depending on if you get around to pruning.

Here are the secrets of clematis success:

In a sentence, clematis prefer their feet to be cool and their heads to be warm. This means dig a huge hole at least two feet wide. Mix in one half of a bag of compost with the regular soil. The compost helps to keep the soil moist and cool. Next carefully remove your new clematis from the container. The necks or stems of clematis are very fragile. After planting, keep the soil moist and the roots cool with a two inch mulch of wood chips or compost. Do not place a stone or any other heat absorbing material near the roots. Clematis grow mostly roots the first year. Buy a clematis plant that is growing in a container one gallon in size or larger. Small clematis do not transplant as easily. If you want to grow a compact clematis in a pot, chose a large container at least two feet deep. Clematis prefer foam or plastic pots that do not absorb the heat. Make sure the container is not sitting in the afternoon sun. Fertilize every spring with a slow release plant food.

Do you need a lattice for your clematis?

Nope. Not in my garden anyway. In our climate clematis make a more natural display if you marry this queen to a tall and sturdy tree or shrub. Encourage the smaller more compact clematis to support themselves in the branches of hydrangeas, nandinas and Rose of Sharon hibiscus. My favorite plant marriage is a to combine clematis with small trees such as Japanese maples. Just be sure you choose one of the smaller and more compact clematis such as those bred for containers so you don’t overwhelm the tree. Growing clematis should encourage experimentation with various other plants in your garden as supporting partners.

The Pruning Puzzle of clematis

Horticulturists debate how and when to prune specific clematis depending on what variety they are and categorize clematis into different groups and if you should prune in fall or spring or winter. Most summer blooming clematis in Western Washington can be given the pony tail cut in early spring ­ just grab all the stems in one hand like making a pony tail and snip them off three feet from the ground. This keeps tidy gardeners happy as the dead leaves and tangled vines are gone but the vine will flower later in the season. Lazy gardeners can ignore this and just let their clematis climb until it gets too tall ­ then prune it back in the spring every few years. Prune early spring bloomers such as the evergreen and clematis montana clematis right after they flower ­— but only if you think it is necessary.

What about ‘Sweet Summer Love’ clematis ?

‘Sweet Summer Love’ is a new, hardy, small flowering clematis that is fragrant with a long bloom time. The blooms start cranberry red fading to purple and this vine blooms for months, not weeks. What’s not to love? Clematis ‘Sweet Summer Love’ is a Proven Winners selection so it should be easy to find at local nurseries. Trust me, this is one very easy to grow clematis. I grow Clematis ‘Sweet Summer Love’ next to my favorite summer shrub — the hydrangea. I think the clematis and hydrangea union is a marriage made in garden heaven. The big hydrangea shrubs wear the violet clematis flowers like a necklace — or a crown. You can give this clematis the pony tail cut each spring to keep it compact or just let it go.

Make this the year you add clematis with or without a lattice to your landscape. Then stand back and watch this queen of all vines reign over your garden.

More in Life

She can do it all: Family, city and triathlon

Maple Valley is trying to partner with Renton to bring the Ironman competition to Washington.

Author Debbie Macomber poses with the cast of “The Inn at Rose Harbor.” Photo courtesy Renton School District
Writer watches story unfold on stage

Author Debbie Macomber watched the play adaptation of her book at Hazen High School last week.

This political biography is unlike any others

Sometimes, it’s good to take account. You’ll know where you stand when… Continue reading

Renton Rotary selects Youth of the Month for May

The award is given to students who have leadership abilities, maintain a good GPA and volunteer in the community.

Once you start “The Last Cowboys,” you won’t want to stop

You can’t take it with you. People have tried for millennia to… Continue reading

Mick Flynn sits underneath his “Blues Greats” acrylic series at Liberty Cafe. Photo by Leah Abraham
Sharing the love of rock ‘n’ roll through art

Mick Flynn’s art exhibit is displayed at Liberty Cafe.

Fuchsias can go outside, but hang on to heat-loving plants

“You can also plant cold-tolerant bedding plants like lobelia, pansies and dusty Miller.”

Renton High senior receives Gates Scholarship

Dulce Ventura is one of only 300 high school students nationwide to win the award.

Ron Minter poses inside Minter’s Earlington Greenhouse Nursery before it closed in 2015. File photo
Earlington Hill landmark razed

Minter’s Earlington Greenhouse & Nursery closed shop in 2015. The buildin

File photo
Renton Youth Symphony Orchestra prepares for spring concert

Orchestra will host its spring concert 3 p.m., May 6 at Carco Theatre.

Seeking applicats for Evergreen Girls State program

The program is a citizenship program for junior girls, sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Washington.