Growing and Caring for Clematis in the Big Country

by Audrey Gillespie

Photo Credit - Aggie Horticulture : https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/ornamentals/nativeshrubs/clematistexens.htm

Photo Credit – Aggie Horticulture Native Shrubs of Texas

Many thanks to my good friend and fellow master gardener, Vicki Adams, for her advice for this column and to “Texas Gardener” magazine for an excellent article on this subject last spring.  A grudging thank you to my husband, who remembers very well my first attempt at growing clematis here, well before I had the slightest idea what I was doing in the garden.  I say grudging because I planted my clematis one day, went outside the next and found it dead, and came inside.  I told him even I had never managed to kill anything so quick.  He did finally confess, a year later, that he had cut it down with the weed eater.  Thanks to his confession, I have two beautiful clematis vines that I have enjoyed now for several years, with plans to add to my collection.

If, like me, you thought clematis was only suited for cooler climates, here are a few varieties you might want to try:  ‘Madame Julia Correvon’, ‘Earnest Markham’, ‘Bee’s Jubilee’, Texas native ‘pitcheri’ (purple leatherflower), and the ever-popular ‘Jackmanii’.  All are proven performers here, if you plant them in the shade of another plant and allow them to use the other plant as a trellis (remember all those gorgeous pictures you’ve seen of climbing roses and clematis entwined?) or simply shade the roots.  Be sure to mulch them to a depth of three inches or so.  They will thank you for helping them stay a little cooler.

You might want to avoid Clematis ‘drummondii’ (the old man’s beard you see growing on country fences) and ‘terniflora’ (sweet autumn clematis), unless you are prepared to deal with the possible invasiveness of both.  The huge-bloomed hybrids you will see this spring will probably disappoint you, too.  They really want to live in a proper English garden and will pine away here.

Pruning your clematis will help reinvigorate your plants.  When and what to prune are based on when your plants bloom.  Search Clematis on the Web for information specific to your variety.  You can also find more information on the Big Country Master Gardener Website, www.txmg.org/taylor.

I am pleased to announce this year’s new “crop” of master gardener interns.  They are:  Betsi Wheat, Janet Thomas, Brenda Brown, Kent Herring, Donna Olson, Karen Boyd, Jean Snodgrass, Joe Whitehorn, Gordon Dowell, Linda Whitehorn, Sharon Lopez, Dana Hardegree, Dorothy Kiser, Melissa Dierdorf, Lisa Rosson, Anita Green, and Cat Colson.  We are looking forward to a great new year with these wonderful folks.

This is the time of year when gardening fever hits us all hard.  You can find helpful information by searching Aggie Horticulture online.  Your county extension agent is another excellent resource.  You can reach the Taylor County A&M AgriLife Extension Office by calling 325-672-6048.  The Big Country Master Gardener hotline can be reached at the same number or by emailing mgardeners@yahoo.com.  Don’t forget area nursery/gardening professionals.  Learn from their experience and education.

Until next time, happy gardening!

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