Monthly Archives: July 2017

easy peasy clematis

I hear from many people at my talks that they find clematis to be tricky, fussy , or even impossible to grow. that may very well be true for some of the large flowered hybrids with their susceptibility to wilt and siren call they send out to every slug from here to Nova Scotia, but the more you know about this fascinating genus of plants  the better able you are to pick and choose the ones that flower generously and remain more or less trouble free in the garden .

For the next couple of weeks i am going to introduce you to some clematis that are as easy as pie to grow and maintain , and also bring some charm into the garden.

First a little background info. The genus clematis has quite a number of differing species , and these species hail from all over the globe and can be markedly different in their growth and growing requirements. One way growers use to simplify the what and how of each species and their hybrids  is to lump them into loose groups based on parentage.

The four groups I am going to talk about are all full of late season bloomers, with generally smaller flowers  massed on larger vines , they are the Tangutica group, the Heracleifolia Group, the Viorna Group and the Vitacella Group. One a week for four weeks, follow along!!!

This week we start with the Tanguitica group and three  of the easiest clematis varieties you will ever grow.

The Tanguita group holds clematis that have either c.tanguitica, c. orientalis, c.serratifolia, or c. tibetana as a parent, it is sometimes also called the Orientalis group. Many clematis in this group have yellow or orange-y yellow flowers, but also white, cream or even those that look brown, or some that are bi-colored. The clematis in this group also sport some pretty amazing seed heads and many of the vines can grow large enough to cover a shed or pergola.

C.tangutica ‘Bill MacKenzie’ was the first one I ever grew from this group. It can reach 25+ feet and has lovely foliage which never looks ratty  because it is very adapted to living in poor sandy soils and is quite tolerant of drought .I t will sulk in heavy or poorly drained soil so add grit and gravel if necessary in your neck of the woods. I have planted Bill under the one ( out of 20) remaining poplar trees in the yard where it happily has grown into the canopy of the tree and flowers from June to September. After the first few flower pass (usually in July) the vine starts to also show off the gorgeous large silky seed heads that persist until early winter . I press the foliage of this guy a lot for my Pressed Flower card workshops, it is quite fine, almost ferny.

seed heads of bill MAc

seed heads of bill MAc

foliage of Bill Mac

foliage of Bill Mac


This clematis blooms only growth it makes in the current year, so you could in fact cut it down to 12 inches or so in the late winter, but I chose to cut only a few vines back, and to staggered heights at that, to maintain some of the height into the tree and get flowers at many levels.

Clematis ‘My Angel’ is also a very vigorous plant and quite the charmer. I bought mine from Klehm’s Song Sparrow and am copying their description here because it is perfect (photos are mine)

Charming flowers are yellow on the inside and brushed with plum-red on the outside. Clematis My Angel® has plump, round buds that open to nodding flowers over a long bloom period. Each bloom has four showy tepals and is accented with a center of dark plum anthers. Flowers give way to fluffy silvery, seed heads.

my angel

my angel

DSC_0008 (3)

The only thing I will add is that my flowers tend to be the size of a dime , they are beyond adorable.

I word of caution, I have heard this baby will seed itself , but usually near the mama plant. haven’t had it happen here but good to know.

The third member of this group I am growing is new to me this year, and seriously, if you can’t grow this one you should maybe take up a new hobby.

‘Radar Love ‘ had solid yellow open bells and gorgeous seed heads, how do I know this so soon? Started from seed in April, my plants are already blooming and one has seeds too. 4 months from seed to blooming vine, and mind you, I  had almost 100% germination rate so  I actually ran out of locations to put them in the garden and  I left some in pots where they have been deliriously happy .

radar love

radar love

radar love

radar love

radar love seed head

radar love seed head


Doesn’t get easier than this, well, except maybe next week’s group, The Heracleifolias!


Please follow and like us:

cheap thrills

2017-02-07 23.13.14As the season goes on ( and boy is it ever a glorious one thanks to Mother Nature being generous with the water works)  each day I stroll around eagerly awaiting to see  what has come into bloom around the next corner. We are in prime summertime; coneflowers, black eyed susans, garden phlox, hydrangeas and many a treasured and sought after plant  ($$$$) are sure strutting their stuff,and while I love to see rare clematis and well grown roses,  if is the cheap thrills that get me the most.

There is such a sense of satisfaction knowing you can create a beautiful landscape on a shoestring budget if you just are a little prepared ahead of time in a few ways.

Fist and foremost buy seeds of things that are easy to both start from seed and save seed from when they are done blooming, things like morning glories, love in a puff vine, hyacinth bean vine, nasturtiums, zinnias, amaranth and cosmos. Dahlia tubers also fall under this heading even though it is a tuber instead of seed you save. It may be a teeny bit of work but worth every bit of  effort in the end when you can fill loads of containers and empty spaces in the garden for next to nothing. Almost all of my annual vines are now started from seed I have saved , initial cost was minimal, and now it is only my time that gets spent as I watch for w week or two and gather the seeds to store over winter.

Nasturtium seeds form quickly as the flowers fade and can be collected as soon as you see them big enough , and before the birds get to them.IMG_2187

Hyacinth bean forms cool electric purple pods and these get left on the vine until brown and then dry and then take the seeds out of the pod and store .DSC_0026

Love in a puff  halicacabum cardiospermum makes these cool puffs after flowering and the seeds are in them, but you can just store the puffs after they are brown

love in a puff

love in a puff

I use little glassine envelopes for all most but not all of my seeds. For things like amaranth and even zinnias you can just pop the whole flower head in a paper lunch bag to deal with later in the winter when you are bored and feel like separating the seeds from all the chaff. Just make sure they are dry before placing them in the bag. With the amaranth a quick vigorous shake of the bag in the spring will send the seeds to the bottom of the bag leaving the rest of the flower stalk intact and  you just take out and pitch  the stalk and pour out the seeds.
image image

I have several large containers that are filled using many of these saved seeds .the first key to success is a large pot + less watering+ greater germination and survival rates. Because i save way more seed than I could ever use, I sow heavily and then thin out the seedlings them later if necessary .

This pot has a mum and a sedum that live in it year round and then I pop in seeds after all chance of frost has passed. This year it was actually very late as I used hyacinth bean seeds which I never plant outside until June 1. I also add a single dahlia tuber in there and by early July the pot is full and fresh looking and will be flowering within  the month lasting through frost. Someone on my garden tour this June happened to be standing next to me and the pot when it was all just starting to grow , and commented  ”I see what you are doing here, how clever! ”

large pot with dahlia, mum, sedum, hyacinth bean vine

large pot with dahlia, mum, sedum, hyacinth bean vine

2017-02-07 23.15.37Another pot nearby gets morning glories every year and this year I added the hyacinth bean as well.Within a week with this heat (finally!) it will be outrageously full and blooming 2017-02-07 23.16.03

You can read more about my use of annual vines for late season interest here

The two large pots on the pool area are even easier. These are quite large and are made to hold the umbrellas. (you can see what I did here) . They are heavy and I actually never change the soil in them partially because of the cement , but mostly because the petunias that I planted in it  the first year they were made ( probably 6 years ago) seed readily  and come back for free. I will admit it takes time  for the seedlings to get to any reasonable size so the pots initially remained quite empty until the middle of July but then I started planting lettuce seed in them very early in the season, Now I grow lettuce in one of them , harvest lettuce all spring , and just as it is starting to get too warm for the  lettuce, the petunias are of a decent enough size to take over and the lettuce gets ripped out while they carry on until frost.IMG_2382

In the second one I actually get celosia to self seed as well, so i just pop in few seeds of nasturtiums and call it a day. this year the chipmunks planted sunflowers in there and although I do not like the look of it I will let them stay, cut the sunflowers for inside once they are flowering , and then move some of the other plants to fill in the gap. You may notice that the petunia growing in here is one of those “illegal ” orange ones. This is a very long but very interesting story you can read about here if you like in an article titled “How the transgenic petunia carnage of 2017 began”, but suffice it to say that petunias do not contain a gene for expressing the color orange so some wacky engineering was going on for them to exist. I actually bought one plant for  a dollar to tuck in this pot  very late in the season and I was very surprised to see it come back.




variegated nasturtium

variegated nasturtiums


Which brings me to my second way you need to be prepared, and that is learn what seedlings of your favorite annuals look like and be aware when weeding what you are pulling. Lots of annuals leave seeds that will happily overwinter in some years, sometimes they can get annoying  like Morning Glory sprouting all over the place  but many times it is delightful to find free plants to either leave growing  where they sprouted or lift and move elsewhere. This little nasturtium seeded itself here, IMG_2390and every petunia I grow was a self planted seedling.

Any way to save a few dollars helps and makes it so I can splurge on the cool new bulbs I have been eyeing!


Please follow and like us:

clematis as cut flowers

IMG_2232 IMG_2228It is not too often that I give a presentation on clematis when the garden is in full swing, but as luck would have it I  am headed out to Rockport to talk to a group there and so I have cut some flowers to bring for show and tell ;) IMG_2204 IMG_2218

If I were to make arrangements with any of these clematis,  I would most definitely cut long stems with multiple blooms  but for this talk single flowers will do.

Here is what I cut today:

Hagley Hybrid

Star River

Dr. Ruppel

Ville de Lyon


Catherine ClanWilliam

Betty Corning


Pink Mink

Recta ‘Serious B;ack’

c. mandshurica

polish Spirit

Elsa Spaeth

Triternata rubimarginata


Purpurea plena elegans

Comtesse de Bouchard

alba luxurians

foliage of Mrs. Robert Brydon

foliage of tanguitica Bill McKenzie

seed head from omishiro

and here are a few I like to for their usefulness  in vases

Let’s start with Star River. ( Zostarri) This clematis was bred by Wim Snoeijer from Holland. It has lovely two toned violet flowers that are actually quite beautiful from both front and behind, is an integrifolia ( herbaceous) hybrid that does not climb so is a set of long and untangled single stems with multiple flowers at the tips, and blooms easily for months.2017-01-30 23.23.28 2017-01-30 23.23.492017-01-30 23.32.23 All of these attributes make it the perfect candidate to cut and arrange with.  I adore this clematis in bud and flower both in a vase  and out in the garden, it’s only drawback is it really looks awful after the flowers start to go past. They fade to a dreadful color and I immediately deadhead them , but that is in a no way meant to dissuade you from planting it as deadheading is actually good for the plant will stimulate new growth and more flowers.

Rocuchi is great in arrangements for all of the above reasons and the buds are really cool too so a definite for textural as well as floral interest.DSC_0079


roguchi bud lower right

roguchi bud lower right

while it is nice to have lots of big colorful flowers, you need also filler and foliage too and clematis mandshirica is a great one for that. It is also an herbaceous form, so again, very easy to cut longer stems which are  act just like baby’s breath filling out  between flowers with a goes-with-everything-white froth.

The foliage of both the tanguita group and the herbaceaous heracliefolias could not be more different but both are wonderful to use when cutiing.

The heracleifolias ( like c. stans,c.  urticifiolia, and the one pictured her Mrs. Robert Brydon, ) grow upright and errect and the foliage  always perfect, never bug eaten or browned in the garden, They are also very large and highly textured, great for flower arranging

Mrs. RBry leaves under the yarrow

Mrs. RBry leaves under the yarrow

The tanguitcas on the other hand are long, ferny and wonderful to drape and let hang, you can see the leaves in the photos above

All of the plants in both these groups are quite large, so you can cut at will and not worry about loosing their presence in the garden.

We are due for another stormy and rainy day, our weather has been perfect for my garden . I am grateful that the sprinkler system is getting a much needed break after the drought last year, although without all the watering I gotta admit I am a little bored.


Please follow and like us: