I have an expanse of recently erected bare fencing (see what I did there?) to cover. It’s that nasty orangey colour from the wood treatment. It will eventually fade to an easier on the eye brown, but it does look pretty bare. Earlier in the week I put up some vine eyes and wire with the idea of training something or other up the fence to make it less fugly. 

Fugly fence

I had a couple of panels and posts to put in at the greenhouse end of the fence so I went to B&Q for the necessary stuff (this ultimately became a massively convoluted and mildly stressful event, involving having to hire one of their vans, but that’s a whole other story). Anyway, whilst at B&Q I had a peek at the clearance plants section. Very glad I did. They were selling decent size Clematis, many different varieties, for £1 each, reduced from  £8, £10, even £20 in some cases. As far as I could tell, the only reason they were flogging them off cheap is that they don’t look very interesting at this time of year; just bare stems with the beginnings of this year’s shoots. At a quid each I almost bought the entire stock but managed to contain myself to “just” 17. These are not the straggly young plants you see in supermarkets in the spring.  I’d say these are 2 or 3 years old.  They will look fab and will soon cover that fence.  This is truly a double joy – I’m a Clematis fan and who doesn’t love a bargain? Boo ya.
The varieties I got are :

  • C. Viticella Mme J Correvon (x2)
  • C. Miss Batemen
  • C. Carnaby
  • C. hybrid Bernadine (x2)
  • C. hybrid Ooh la la (x2)
  • C. hybrid Rebecca (x2)
  • C. Rouge cardinal
  • C. Piilu 
  • C. Blue angel
  • C. Nelly moser
  • C. Warsaw Nike
  • C. Voluceau 
  • C. Comtesse du Bouchard

Among this lot were two pots that B&Q were selling as a “trio” of three varieties together. I decided to split them, which involved teasing apart the three root balls. I should probably have potted them on to grow a bit bigger before planting them out. But I didnt -at 33p each I can afford to be a little cavalier!

After giving them a good soak, I planted them out at about 1-2ft spacing along the fence, with the intention of smothering the fence in foliage and colour. I’ve dug largish holes using the post hole digger, about double the width and half again the depth of the pot. That hole digger is awesome, by the way, makes short work of planting holes and easier on the back and knees! 

Back saver

The soil in that border is pretty sandy so I’ve added manure and compost to the bottom of the planting hole and also mixed with the topsoil to backfill. This is all with a view to better retaining moisture as Clematis are thirsty ladies. I also added a handful of bone meal to the bottom of the hole before putting the plant in.

Barrow of manure

There are at least two schools of thought about how deep to plant clematis.  Many say that they should be planted with the crown 2 or 3, even 6 inches below the surface, some say that the crown should be level with, maybe a tiny bit below the soil surface. The logic for the former is do to with wilt, a disease that can do for a Clematis quite quickly. Way back when, someone thought that burying the crown deep would, in the event that a plant succumbs to wilt, at least encourage the plant to throw up new stems the following year. However, this advice, although long in the giving, is accordng to some apparently a myth, passed on blindly in books, magazines, clematis suppliers, blogs even, I dare say. No actual evidence it makes a blind bit of difference. Even if it did, not all Clematis varieties are susceptible to wilt, most aren’t, so for those it is undoubtedly useless and potentially harmful. A little more helpfully, the RHS say bury if its a large flowered hybrid that flowers may to june, since they are susceptible to wilt, for everything else the crown should be at soil level . There are an awful lot of sources that insist on burying them in a big hole so it’s a minefield of conflicting information. I’ve compromised and left them with the crown just 1 inch below the surface. 

Mixing up varieties comes at the risk of mixing up pruning groups, which is likely to cause difficulties when it comes to pruning as they will inevitably intertwine. I know from experience that trying to unpick one that doesn’t need much pruning from one that needs cutting right back is tricky. I’ve thus planted all the Group 3 plants down this fence line, to keep it simple – they can all be cut right back to 6-12 inches before the spring each year. I’ve also cut all the new plants back to 6 inches to encourage more shoots. I’ll also prune back to a pair of buds a few times once they get growing to get lots of stems, hence lots of foliage and flowers, hence less fence visible.

Ready to be covered

I find that the shop plant labels have a habit of disappearing or disintegrating and then I dont know what pruning group the clem is in, nor which one I’m taking cuttings from. To avoid this I’ve doubled up with a plain plant label tied to the wire. 
I ran out of time to plant the rest this weekend. I’ll dot the rest, all pruning Group 2, around the rest of the garden another time, they’ll be happy enough in their pots till then. 

The Group 2 remainder

I’ll be back,  with photos when they have all grown up and flowered, this year I hope, and also for a post or three on the cuttings I’ll take. I’ve previously had a sub-5% success rate with Clematis cuttings so I’m looking forward to better luck using the heated prop bench this year. I’ll certainly have plenty of material to choose from…