New Clematis Please

While the great and famous garden designers carefully, meticulously and scrupulously select their plants, choosing only the most specimen varieties, scouring the whole world for that ultimate find that will realise their perfect garden, I prefer to see what bargains the local shops have and nab those when anything new, good or unusual comes on sale.

This attitude is notably easier on the wallet and particularly so when it comes to my never-ending quest to find a variety of clematis that survives for more than one season in my care. I’m not worried about whether it flowers or not at this early stage, it’s survival that I’m aiming for.

To that end, I was delighted when my other half came back with a clematis from the local supermarket for the princely sum of £3.00. Admittedly it was rather small, but that’s actually very handy. Clematis that come in those typically deep pots aren’t much good when I’m trying to cram them in between established plants and can’t dig down to the depth of the pot (and more) and the mantra of “plant clematis deep” goes around in my head, mocking me while I give up and lay the thing on its side in some sort of horticultural shallow grave, hoping for divine intervention to keep it alive.

After the initial effusing over the new, £3.00 Clematis “Warsaw Nike”, which has large, strikingly coloured, deep velvet purple flowers with contrasting creamy coloured stamens (from May to September) – again, I’m not bothered about the flowers, only that it will remain alive to the point where I get some value out of it – the next question of course was, “what others did they have and why didn’t you buy those too?”

A second trip to the same supermarket later and the spoils are:

  1. Clematis Alpina “Constance”
  2. Clematis “Arabella”
  3. Clematis “Sunset”
  4. Clematis “The President” (this one’s dedicated to you, Tammy!)

I’m not going to take time to describe these now as that might only hasten their premature demise, instead, I’ll pot these up, take care of them as best I can, hope they remain alive and if they do survive to flower, then I’ll be sure to take pictures. At £3.00 each I’ll also try and take cuttings before they might die to recoup some value, unfortunately right now they’re too small and it’s the wrong time of year.

Kitchen Sill Clematis

I’m going to need a bigger window.

Now all I’ve got to do is to find the right spot for five clematis plants of varying sizes, colours and types, but that shouldn’t be too hard as I have several ideas and before my other half pips in, it’s not going to be the compost heap!

18 Comments


  1. Good luck with these Sunil.
    I have the same approach to buying clematis and it has also been my experience that many have a very short life. I have a dark blue alpina that seems to like our place and an Étoile violette that survives (not very high praise). I plan to get some more this year but will have to wait till summer to find any bargain. The very expensive ones die even faster.

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    1. Thanks Alain, I’m optimistic for the couple of garden-planted clematis I have clambering up a tree as they’re now well underway. The ones in the trugs at the front are emerging but covered in greenfly so I’ll have to do something about those, the indoor ones have outgrown the window sill now but I want to plant them out when the weather has warmed up a bit more. I think it’s a race between getting them establish and stopping them from dying. I’ll be definitely posting more on Clematis as they flower throughout this coming season.

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  2. I am voting for the fabulous Bill Mackenzie, which flowers right through until October if you keep deadheading. And I mean flowers – hundreds of them – small waxy yellow downward hanging bells. The plant is a scrambler; cut down to 1ft end of Feb, and it covers a space 5ft high and 10 ft long every year. Yellow, by the way. Other clematis I have not done well with, but this one just can’t be stopped. Good luck with the cheapies, you just may find a good one in there!

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    1. Hello Mrs Mac, I confess that I’m not really a fan of Clematis Alpina, particularly the yellow variety, I think they just look like scruffy teenagers with no sense of style. The Clematis Alpina “Constance” is one of the more attractive ones of the group.

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      1. I just came back here to find that my gardening blog friend is a plant snob!! I can’t argue with you as I have never seen Constance growing, but I love Bill because he forms a lovely backdrop to my yellow and white border every year and just flowers his heart out! I love plants with small flowers, so many of the things I have in the garden have them (although at the moment I am experiencing my best ever show of tulips – my previous garden was not right for them, but they love it here, and just keep on multiplying and providing joy).

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  3. That’s a lot of vertical excitement for not much money – well done! I don’t have experience with any of the varieties you purchased, though. I hope they do well for you!

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    1. Hello Jason, I’ll be letting people know on here how they’re getting on sometime this summer, if I ever get round to planting them outside, that is. I don’t recall you writing about Clematis in your garden, is this a plant you have or have steered away from?

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      1. I do have some C. jackmanii that are pretty healthy. Now I’m thinking of getting another one for my tuteur.

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  4. Give Madam President a big deep hole full of compost!! My President, the very one I chopped to the ground and then rudely dug up and moved, has put out new growth and is very much alive. Maybe yours keep dying because they need bigger holes and more space to grow. They do love rich soil, too. Now go back and buy even more! 🙂

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    1. Hello Tammy, I did this with all the Clematis that were planted in the trugs last year. All but one have made a roaring come-back. We’ll have to see how they get on this summer. I’m not sure where The President will go. I keep procrastinating and meanwhile, it’s already flowering and outgrowing the kitchen window sill it’s currently sat on!

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  5. Hi Sunil, I have planted dozens of Clematis over the years and have to admit my only failures were those planted in pots. Good luck with your new ones.

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    1. Hello Alastair, I have to agree with you there – the healthiest Clematis I have in the garden at the moment are the ones planted in the ground. The ones in trugs are off to a good start, but I think the trugs overheat in the summer sun and the Clematis wilts. I’ve set up an irrigation system for the trugs this year to help keep on top of the watering and hopefully, that will help.

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  6. Sunil, where is your optimism? These Clematis will do you proud. I have a very nasty suspicion that in a year or two your garden will be dripping in the very flowers you profess to show so little interest in and you will be the blogging world’s Clematis expert. Clematis ‘Early Sensation’ gets my vote, by the way.

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    1. Hello Sarah, I do hope those clematis thrive, though at the moment, they’re one tangled mass on the kitchen window sill and are going to be a nightmare to separate. We’ll have to see in a few year’s time whether I’m blogging about being the best clematis grower in the world, or the worst!

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  7. I’ll be interested in hearing about your results with these varieties of Clematis. I have ‘Arabella’ in my garden (definitely not acquired at a bargain price!) and, while it keeps coming back each year, it hasn’t grown much and flowers sparsely if at all.

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    1. Hello Jean, I’ll be sure to post on their progress later this summer and in subsequent years. Most have only just gone in the ground now. Arabella didn’t get off to a very good start as I snapped the single stem half-way along trying to untangle it from all the others. On a more positive note it was actually flowering right at the end (although the flower was somewhat mis-formed).

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  8. Drainage!!! I think that’s it! Your little grocery store clematis is thriving because it has perfect drainage in its little pot. Do you think the trugs or other spots might have had heavier or water logged soil?

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    1. Hello Tammy, I’d not though of that. The ones in trugs are in pretty heavy, rich soil, but I think it dries out pretty quickly because they’re planted up with so much other stuff (like a hanging basket) that they have trouble competing. The irrigation system that I put in this year should definitely help with watering. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop deer – which have chomped what was a very promising clematis, down to stubs.

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