At it’s best:
Despite being labelled ‘Early Large’, this group of clematis often follow their early summer show with an autumnal encore, given a light prune after their first flush. Indeed, they can also be referred to as group 2 or repeat-flowering, as many can continue to flower right through from early summer to mid-autumn.
As I gaze at the virtually panoramic view of the garden here at The Garden Barn, my eye is being treated to the saucer-sized, star-shaped blooms of the much-admired variety ‘Nelly Moser’. This delicious, deciduous climber has soft, clear pink petals, brushed with cerise brush strokes along the centre of each petal and stamens in an ombre of cream to auburn.
The pretty petals of Nelly Moser have delighted gardeners since 1897, and this one is sitting in our nursery, waiting to be transported to its place of permanent residence in the garden of one of our garden maintenance clients, who remembered it in her grandmother’s garden.
Nelly might have been around since Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, but clematis as a species have a long history as garden favourites. Whilst here in Britain we do have a native clematis – clematis vitalba (Old Man’s Beard or Travellers Joy) – the garden varieties didn’t appear until clematis specimens were brought over from Europe from 1569 onwards.
Those used in hybridising the Early Large-Flowered Clematis were brought over from Asia in the early 19th century, namely c. patens from Japan and c. lanuginosa from China, which wowed breeders with their 6-8 inch across flower faces, as they had previously only known small-flowered types.
When & Where:
Tougher than they look, Early Large-Flowered Clematis are happy in almost any aspect, though they’ll flourish when north-facing. The oft-repeated rule of thumb with clematis is they like their heads in the sun, but their feet in shade, however, with the early large flowered group too much time in the sun can fade their blooms. Hence a north-facing wall, obelisk or pergola offers a fitting home. If picking Nelly Moser as your clematis companion, then position her in light shade to keep her colour for longer.
Clematis aren’t fussy when it comes to soil either, tolerating pretty much anything, so long as it is kept moist, but drains well. They won’t be too bothered by a little exposure either.
Tolerance & Resistance:
Clematis wilt hit hard between the world wars and growers found their nursery populations decimated, which in turn spurred a decline in popularity amongst gardeners. Thankfully, modern treatments provide vastly improved protection from the dreaded wilt.
Insects, especially pollinators, who love the ease-of-access which the open faces which many of the large-flowered forms offer to their pollen stores.
Did you know that when the dry stems of clematis are thrown on a fire, they split and pop, like natural firecrackers!
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