When I was a child, I wasn’t the least bit interested in nurseries, garden centres and the like. I tagged along reluctantly while my parents spent what seemed to me pretty much the whole day looking at various plants until, finally, they made their purchases and we were free to leave that boring place. I did not develop any greater interest in my teens, but was grateful to be left behind when plant buying expeditions were planned. I did take up knitting during this period and one of my favourite patterns was Vine Lace. Perhaps this was a precursor of my passion for flowering vines.
I really don’t know what finally got me interested in plants and gardens, but I do know that the first purchase I made when I had a garden of my own was Wisteria Sinensis. Somewhere along the line, I must have seen and admired this vine enough to ask what it was called and to remember its name. We moved away before the plant grew large, and the house was torn down to make way for a much bigger house, so my first flowering vine didn’t survive long.
Some years later, on a family trip through the Rhine Valley, we came across the building pictured at left. How many years did it take for wisteria to cover the entire front of this building? Perhaps I should have asked myself how much effort had gone into pruning this vigorous vine, as wisteria can climb as high as 20 metres. I read on the Wikipedia website that the world’s largest known wisteria is in Sierra Madre, California. It measures 1 acre in size and weighs 250 tons. Wisteria vines climb by twining their stems either clockwise or counter-clockwise round any available support.
In my next garden, the previous owner had planted honeysuckle (Lonicera) just outside the door into the garden. On summer evenings, the scent of the honeysuckle was heavenly. It twined up into a crab apple tree and was a favourite of my children after they learned that they could pick the flowers and suck the nectar from them.
I have to agree with Christian Lamb when she says, in From The Ends of the Earth, “Clematis is an irresistible species.” Clematis is a pleasing sight when it grows on trellises and arbors, but ever since I was taken by a friend to the University of British Columbia (UBC) Botanical Garden, I am most intrigued by the sight of clematis growing in trees.
UBC Botanical Garden is renowned for its collection of woody climbers (lianas) primarily because we encourage many of them to climb into the mature conifers in the David C. Lam Asian Garden. The genus Clematis is well represented in all parts of the garden, with wild Asian species representing approximately half of the collection.
–Curator of Collections, Douglas Justice
Ever since I saw clematis at UBC climbing high into cedar trees, I’ve taken notice of vines showing off their flowers amid the leaves of trees that have no flowers of their own. The clematis at left has found its way over the owner’s fence and into the fig tree on the street side. The combination is especially pleasing to the eye, and I’m sure it was no accident. I hope to copy this inspired effort in a garden of my own someday.
Of course, a combination of this sort can happen by accident, too. Escapees from urban gardens can climb their way into the trees of their neighbours, where they may or may not be welcome, although it’s hard to imagine anyone being unhappy with the unexpected flowering of a clematis vine in their garden. Now, morning glory would be a different story.
Some clematis will grow on a north-facing wall—but they will climb over the wall and flower for the neighbour. How generous are you?
–Josephine Saxton, Gardening Down a Rabbit Hole.
There are more than 250 species of Clematis, with flowering times ranging from spring through early fall. Some species have two blooming periods. Many clematis flower in shades of pink, mauve and purple; however, there are some very lovely varieties with white flowers, such as “Duchess of Edinburgh” and “Guernsey Cream”.