The Star of India

It’s been the best part of a year since we made a particularly sinful trip to the local Garden Centre and came away with three climbers:

  1. A climbing hydrangea
  2. A honeysuckle
  3. A clematis

The honeysuckle is in the ground, has climbed eight feet high, taking it beyond the height of the fence and into the large pyracantha of the neighbour’s on the other side. It is currently flowering and the scent is delicious. In time, this will be a fabulous addition to the garden.

The climbing hydrangea is still in its original pot, on the patio as part of the patio pots collection. It did not flower this year. I believe it is still a bit young but having said that, the plant has really filled out and has gone from a spindly stick to a substantially bushy climber (if that makes any sense).

The Clematis is “Star of India” was planted in the front garden with the skeleton of a large potato bush (Solanum Crispum) for a frame and a backdrop of dark green ivy growing down the fence (down, as it’s coming over the top of the fence from the other side).

As I am repeatedly not very good with clematis, the plant was bought in flower and when planted, it continued a short while with those flowers and then promptly died to the ground when winter set in. I checked the stems and they weren’t just dormant, ready to burst into life at the first signs of spring, they were dead; dried, shrivelled, dead. I wasn’t holding out much hope of the clematis coming back this year and indeed I forgot about it until late spring when one morning, when I noticed something vertical poking out of the swathe of wild garlic growing at the fence base.

Upon closer inspection it was clematis of some sort. The only thing was that the leaves were a different shape to the original, the stem was much thicker and the growth was coming from somewhere that didn’t seem part of the original plant. Apart from all that, it was a clematis so I didn’t argue.

I generally left it to its own devices and it slowly muddled through the cold spring and with the warmer weather, had reached a good way up the fence by early summer with a bit of help from some garden wire.

A great deal of hot weather later and it is now flowering, with a grand total of two flowers plus two more on their way. This also means the nail-biting wait to find out if this really is the same plant is over.

Clematis "Star of India"

I can confidently say that this is the same thing that we bought at the Garden Centre about a year ago, labelled as Clematis “Star of India” as a bonus it is still alive and flowering. Subsequent years will tell if the best I can get out of this plant is four flowers with a die-back to the ground each winter.

I tend not to be very good with clematis.

10 Comments


  1. I also have had a checkered history with Clematis, but I currently have two growing up the fence at the back of my fence border, and they seem to be happy there. I thought I had killed the second one I planted, a Clematis viticella, when I pruned it inappropriately last spring and it died back to the ground. I was thrilled when it reappeared this spring, and it is now in its second flush of blooms. Yours is gorgeous.

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    1. Hi Jean, thank you, I really do love these climbers but I just can’t seem to make them happy in the garden. Something always seems to go wrong with them each year. I wonder if they just need a (very) long time to get established and settle in. A plus point is that I am good at taking cuttings of them so I can always try again!

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  2. Better you should say that clematis isn’t very good with you. Could this possibly be a grafted clematis (never heard of, but still) and the new growth is from the root stock?

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    1. Hello Jason, I think it’s the original as I can’t imagine clematis grafting very well, they’re so thin and spindly. The new shoot might have come from deeper down the root system which would explain why it appeared from a different spot to where I thought I had planted it.

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  3. Clematis is much tougher than people realize. Just give it moist, rich soil and it will be beautiful. Climbing hydrangea are beautiful but I’ve heard they’re slow growers. As for the honeysuckle, I’m not surprised it’s growing so vigorously. My ‘Mint Crisp’ must read my blog because it’s started putting out a bunch of growth suddenly. That’s fine with me! The sooner it covers my arbor and I get to smell those flowers, the better. 🙂

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    1. Hi Tammy, my Clematis don’t seem to be very tough, it only takes a surprise sneeze when standing close to them for them to suddenly drop all their leaves in shock. I also like the lush green foliage of climbing hydrangea, but I recently discovered a plant called Schizophragma Integrifolium that I wish I got instead because its inflorescences are unusual and much more eye catching. I’m glad your honeysuckle has taken off. Ours had a reasonable year and has grown several feet and wondered over the fence, it just needs to fill and bush out now, as well as flower like crazy.

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  4. Sunil, I’ve had good and bad experiences with clematis. Some I planted just seemed to disappear, then returned two years later and were very healthy. The main thing I’ve learned is that the roots need a couple of years to get established, then you should enjoy more flowering. I hope so!

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    1. Hi Lynn, they certainly do take their time to get established in my garden – if they survive at all! Next year I’m not planning to make any changes in or around the clematis we have, I just want to leave them alone so I don’t risk snapping or otherwise destroying them. Of course, it doesn’t help when local cats have a go at digging around the base!

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  5. My experience with Climbing hydrangea is that they grow very slowly in the first years but once they get established, they grow much faster. They don’t do a lot for a few years and then they shoot up. They need more space than clematis or honeysuckles. Once they are mature, they send out shoots from the main trunk that are a few feet long and you cannot prune those off as the blooms are at the end of these shoots. This means that if for instance you grow it on a wall, you have to leave it a space of about 3 feet off that wall if you want it to bloom. I find the leaves particularly beautiful. It would be worth growing it even if it did not bloom.
    I have seen some old ones that covered 4 floors of a building.
    Your clematis is beautiful. They definitely prefer an alkaline soil. Is your soil acidic?

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    1. Hello Alain, thank you for the tips, I’ve heard similar for climbing hydrangea. I can be patient for a few years while it gets established for it to then take off. This is what has happened with a couple of ivies we have. Our soil should be pretty alkaline (although I’ve not tested it), it is also quite heavy (on the clay-side but not too bad) and should hopefully be pretty fertile. If all clematis plants in the wild behaved like mine do in the garden, the whole species would have gone extinct a very long time ago!

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