Amongst a diversity of flowering plants currently flagging up their glorious presence, clematis montana is making the great impression for me.
Last week, spectacular displays were noted locally, covering fences, walls, buildings, even an ornamental tree, underlining the fact that this is a vigorous, good choice climber for late spring.
The species is white, but there are attractive varieties in pink.
Two favourites whose flowers also have a strong fragrance are C. montana Elizabeth (white) and C. montana Pink Perfection.
Apart from the obvious floral attraction, whose arrival we eagerly anticipate, this plant is so useful in making unattractive structures vanish from view.
When planted at the base of an appropriate ornamental tree, it will climb up through and bloom alongside the host.
The common white hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), currently brightening up our countryside hedgerows, is a good companion for spring clematis, but there are double flowered options too. Crataegus Plena (white), C. Paul’s Scarlet (red) or C. Rosea Flore Pleno (pink), could each team up with montana for a popular combination, the hawthorn’s double flowers complementing those of the montana.
To keep a clematis happy, ensure it has a hot head and cold feet. Sunlight provides the former, but you are responsible for the latter.
Laying a flagstone over soil covering the roots is the simplest solution.
Although montana is noted for its climbing ability, 10m-plus is possible, this can be controlled by pruning, which must come immediately after flowering.
If the plant is developing to cover a fence, keep all pruning light until the mission is accomplished.
Save more severe treatment for future occasions when it needs to be kept within bounds. The plant responds with new growth, which ripens over summer in preparation for the following May-June.
Pruning of summer flowering clematis comes in early spring as the blooms, which are generally bigger, are borne on new growths. Those that bloom from late summer into autumn are also pruned in early spring and will accept more severe treatment.
Propagation is by layering or cuttings. Any stems carrying new growth that trail near ground level can be pegged or weighed down and will root over summer. This process can be encouraged by adding gritty compost to the soil and keeping it moist. Non-flowering, softwood stem cuttings root readily in a propagating facility.