May is Montana Time: Here is Clematis gracilifolia var. trifoliata (M. Johnson)

Posted by LindaB on Sunday, May 18, 2014

Now that the early little bell clematis are passing their prime (excepting Clematis koreana and it’s cultivars, which peak now), the Montana Group bursts forth. These are the pink or white, and in some cases double blossoms often described as looking anemone-flowered, or even like dogwoods. A fully in flowering Clematis montana form makes a garden appear as though coated with a heavy layer of cake icing. Many are highly scented, adding the fragrance of vanilla to the impression of frosting. They are confections by any definition.


At the Rogerson Clematis Gardens, this group is particularly celebrated due to their being amongst Brewster Rogerson’s favorites. In the Founder’s Garden you will find ‘Jenny Keay’ (syn. of ‘Jenny’), ‘Snowflake’ (a fine selection of C. spooneri, a C. montana cousin), ‘Vera’ (pictured above), and ‘Warwickshire Rose’, all in full bloom together. But the rarity in the group is located in the Heirloom Garden, Clematis gracififolia var. trifoliata.

This variant of another Clematis montana cousin came to Brewster via Magnus Johnson, who grew it successfully in Södertälje, Sweden. Our plants are grown in the Heirloom Garden because the species was originally brought out of China and described by Ernest Henry “Chinese” Wilson in about 1910. In general terms, the flowers are smaller than those of the other species in the group.

There are four known variants of C. gracilifolia, according to Christopher Grey-Wilson. It was C. gracilifolia var. gracilifolia first mentioned by Wilson and his colleague at the Arnold Arboretum, Alfred Rehder. Later, in 1980, W. T. Wang and M. C. Chang described another variant, C. g. var. dissectifolia, with finer leaves. This seems to be the form most widely available, when the species can be found at all. A recent collection of C. montana brought back by Far Reaches Farm is quite likely this. It is mainly leaf form and geographic distribution that separate var. gracififolia from var. dissecta. The variant known as macrantha is distinguished by larger flowers and leaves. As regards clematis, Grey-Wilson tends to be a lumper. Magnus Johnson was a splitter, tending to acknowledge distinctions of leaf, flower, and geography as additional variants or even species.

Hence, our plants of what Johnson described in the 2001 English translation of his book, The Genus Clematis, as Clematis gracilifolia var. trifoliata M. Johnson var. nova (or new variant described by himself). He describes it as having purple-tinged stems and new growth, a pink cast to the flowers, and decidedly trifoliate leaves less serrated (if at all) than var. dissecta. He obtained his plants originally from seed collected by Harry Smith in 1935, and all further propagation was done by vegetative cuttings. Therefore, FRCC’s plants are clones of the original seedlings of Smith’s collection No. 12850. Grey-Wilson has lumped var. trifoliata into var. macrantha. We can leave it to our betters to sort this out, but for FRCC’s purposes, we are calling it by the name Brewster received it as, although I can see the reasoning behind melding the two variants. We have not saved seed yet, and so do not know what variations to the variant one might expect. The thing grows frighteningly easy from cuttings, we can say that for a certainty.


Our best plant of Clematis gracilifolia var. trifoliata is planted on a wire fence on the west side of the famrhouse, in Historic Garden bed C. It is not so heavy a vine as a typical montana, and has flung itself in every direction. It’s most pleasing combination in where it wanders into Syringa ‘Distinction’, a bushy deep violet lilac. The blowsy shrub makes a fine textural contrast with the daintier clematis. We have a another plant receiving more shade on the east side of the farm driveway, in a very exposed site. This second plant is slower to awaken in the spring than its more cosseted cohort, but otherwise shows no ill winter effects.

The Constant ‘Constance’

Posted by LindaB on Sunday, April 6, 2014


And so it begins, the season of flashier flowers than the subtle clematis beauties of winter. Often the first amongst these is ‘Constance’, in the clematis horticultural group known as the atragenes (at-rah-jen-knees). This group contains species such as Clematis alpina, chiisanensis, fauriei, koreana, and macropetala, and are often referred to as the “little bells” of spring. Most have only four sepals, but when the double C. macropetala is involved in the breeding, the resultant hybrids are likely double, too.

Such is the case with ‘Constance’. This culitvar is consistently one of the earliest to bloom in the Rogerson Clematis Garden’s Spring Border. Our specimens, as seen here, clamber though a long hedge of Viburnum tinus. Any pruning of ‘Constance’ is done directly after the first flowers have faded. With a bit of fertilizer added at pruning time, ‘Contance’ will bloom again in August, and will likely produced a modest autumn show in early October.

‘Constance’ is named for the British actress Constance Cummings, and was raised from a seedling of C. ‘Ruby’ by a family friend of Ms. Cummings, Kathleen Goodman of Hull, UK. The plant was introduced to the trade in 1992, and had rapidly established itself as a favorite of this group. The vines can reach 12′ tall if left unpruned, but can be maintained at a more modest 6-8′ with a good tidying, as mentioned above, done directly after the first round of flowering is over.

As if the plant needs further selling points, it would be remiss of us not to mention how very tough the “little bells” of spring are. The winter hardiest of all clematis, Clematis siberica (yes, as in Siberia), takes winters to Zone 2-3. The rest of the species can take winters down to zones 3-4 with little or no damage.

Interestingly, what this group does not like is excessive winter warm. In the humid areas of Zone 8, and in Zones 9-11, all of the atragenes are expensive annuals. Without winter cold to reset their bloom cycle, and in areas where summer temperatures do not drop at night, the plants bloom themselves to death in a year’s time. While we grow ‘Constance’ and her cousins to perfection here in the greater Portland area, in Atlanta, GA, also zone 8, she is doomed to failure because of the summer heat and humidity, which is not factored into USDA zone designations.

However, in Denver, or out on the prairies, or in the high desert areas of eastern Washington and elsewhere, the atragenes will be the most cast-iron of the clematis commonly available for sale.

November and We’re Still Blooming!

Posted by LindaB on Saturday, November 10, 2012

Northwestern Oregon has enjoyed an unusually lovely autumn, and the coming of the rains, late this year, have inspired a bevy of beauties to stay in bloom, or return to bloom. Here’s the rundown of which clematis are blooming, and a few pictures to whet your appetite. You will see that the winter-blooming Cirrhosa group are already well represented, with the recently pruned C. cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Lansdowne Gem’ rebounding and forming buds already. Also forming buds outside is C. napaulensis, and if the weather continues mild and we avoid a hard frost, we will get bloom from this species. The plants of this species inside the greenhouse should be in bloom within the next two weeks.

Clematis patens 'Yukiokoshi'

    Inside the Greenhouse:

ANGELIQUE ‘Evipo017’
‘Doctor Ruppel’
‘Duchess of Sutherland’
‘Horn of Plenty’
‘Iola Fair’
‘King George V’
‘Margaret Hunt’

Clematis ANGELIQUE 'Evipo043'

    On the Terrace in Containers:

ANNA LOUISE ‘Evithree’
‘Blue Ravine’
CHEROKEE ‘Evipo041’
‘Etoile de Malicorne’
JOSEPHINE ‘Evijohill’
‘Lech Welesa’
PICARDY ‘Evipo024’
‘Prince Philip’
‘Snow Queen’
‘Summer Breeze’
VANCOUVER ‘Danielle’

    Terrace Walk:

C. cirrhosa ‘Ourika Valley’
C. cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’
C. cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’
C. cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Jingle Bells’

Clematis cirrhosa 'Wisley Cream'

    The IClS Beginner’s Garden:

‘Duchess of Albany’
‘Etoile Violette’
‘Kardynal Wyszynski’
‘Prince Charles’
‘Venosa Violacea’

    In Steppe:

C. tibetana subspecies vernayi var. vernayi

    Old Poland:

‘Anna Karolina’
‘Mikolaj Kopernik’

    Founder’s Garden:

‘Fond Memories’
‘Jenny Keay’
‘Sixten’s Gift’

    Baltic Border:


    Beech Tree’s Garden:

‘Mayor Isao’
‘Mrs. Yuki’
C. patens ‘Yukiokoshi’

Clematis 'Mayor Isao'

    Heirloom Garden:

‘Fair Rosamond’ (Bed B)
‘Lasurstern’ (Bed C)
C. tibetana (Bed D)
‘Belle of Woking’ (Bed E)
‘Edouard Desfosse’ (Bed E)
‘Candida’ (Bed H)
C. crispa (Bed H)
‘M. Koster’ (Bed I)

Front Bank:
‘Etoile Rose’
‘Gravetye Beauty’
‘Princess Diana’

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