Bells Ring in the New Year

Posted by LindaB on Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dr. Mary Toomey, who has long been a friend of the Rogerson Clematis Collection, considers the Pacific Northwest, as well as her own Ireland, to be uniquely blessed places where clematis can bloom year round. In a genus of ~300 species—plus a couple thousand hybrids—ranging in hardiness from zone 3 to the tropics, it shouldn’t be surprising that here in zone 8 we accomplish this feat. And so it is that at Luscher Farm, through very cold (for here), very snowy, very icy and very windy weather in December, Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Jingle Bells’, and several of its cousins have been in bloom for months. Yes, months, and they’re still going.

‘Jingle Bells’, with its creamy inch-long bells, and all of the Cirrhosa Group, are planted outside near the western greenhouse wall, in a raised bed that runs the length of the greenhouse. The soil has been heavily amended with 1/4-ten gravel to assure ample drainage. Five large flat-panel trellises and fencing at either end of the bed provide vertical support for those clematis preferring to climb. All of the clematis in this bed, which the Cirrhosa Group shares with the New Zealand Group, were planted in July and early August of 2008, and we generally assumed they would not bloom this winter because they were hard-pruned at planting time to ease their transplant shock.

Clematis 'Jingle Bells'

Never before in our display gardens have a group of clematis thanked us so immediately and abundantly for being planted into the ground. By late October ‘Jingle Bells’ was in bloom, even though the vines (we planted four of this cultivar) are still under a meter tall. Following along a week or so later was C. cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Lansdowne Gem’ which has proved, along with C. cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream’, to be extremely hardy in Portland. Like ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘Lansdowne Gem’ is still blooming.

We should note that this whole bed, known as the Terrace Walk, was buried under more than 75cm of snow, part of which was the snow load that slides off of the peaked roof when the sun heats the greenhouse during the day. All parts of the clematis that were buried in snow showed no foliage or flower damage when the snow melted (including the two Clematis napaulensis specimens and which had leafed-out but have not bloomed). Snow is a great mulch.

Terrace Walk

Also in bloom now:
Clematis cirrhosa var. cirrhosa
Clematis cirrhosa ‘Ourika Valley’
Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica
Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’
and a C. cirrhosa x Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica hybrid seedling named ‘Early Times’ (yes, it is whiskey-colored, it has leaves halfway in delicacy between its two parents, and blooms earlier than var. balearica, and yes, we intend to register and propagate it). ‘Early Times’ is a foundling of Brewster’s raising, and is named by Mike Snyder, of Beaverton, OR.

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