There is no such thing as a Clematis chore in spring - it’s all an absolute pleasure at this time of year. Some of the most glorious blooms that you will ever see anywhere have burst forth from twisted blackened winter stems that one could be excused for assuming were dead. All that aside, there are a few things you can do if you can bear to tear yourself away from admiring the flowers (Lots more information is available on our supplier’s site www.ahn.com.au ).
1. Keep an eye on just where your Clematis is heading. At this time of year the stems grow almost as you watch them, and the leaves will lovingly entwine themselves around anything that happens to be handy – the washing line, the child’s bicycle or perhaps the leg of your patio chair. While this habit is endearing in the garden, and leads to unexpected floral combinations, try and head off these antics if the support is something that you need to move from time to time.
2. When your plants finish their first flush of flowering you can prune them back by a half to two thirds to make them bushier. A couple of times during the growing season we prune all our potted specimens back to 10 to 20 cm depending on the pot size, but this may be a bit radical for you.
3. After pruning always give Clematis a generous feed with a slow-release fertiliser. Clematis like more food than your average garden plant. We use Osmocote Topdress, a fertilizer that contains both an immediate and a slow release component, and apply it at about one and a half times the recommended rate. In spring a healthy well-established plant should be a bushy column of leafy sterns erupting out of the ground.
4. Watch out for mildew (white patches on the stems and leaves) which may strike some varieties at this time of year. You can either prune the plant back hard as the new growth often then emerges into conditions which do not favour mildew, or you can visit your local retailer for sprays to use. And watch out for slugs as they can turn your beautiful flowers into tattered remnants.
That’s all very fine you say, but you can’t grow Clematis in Perth. To which I reply -yes you most certainly can, and at Whistlepipe we have been growing them now for nearly 10 years. Some are in the ground but most are in big pots 30 – 50 cm in diameter where they thrive and become more robust with each year (see the image above). We do send them through the post with their stems trimmed back, but it is easier if you can come and see them at our November open days.
They really are much hardier than you think.
Best regards, Margy Clema