It can grow more than 30 feet in a single season, climb and entwine on everything within its reach. The UPS, FedEx and USPS people no longer drop shipments off on our patio since they are not sure they can go under the thick overhanging vine covering the walkway. My fault! I draped the young vine over the walkway without thinking of the resulting consequences.
I was describing our Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora). It covers two sides of our patio, providing us with a green screen from summer to late fall. Around late summer and early fall it is blanketed with small white, lightly fragrant flowers, lots of them. The fragrance is much more pronounced when the temperature is on the cool side. The flowers are so abundant that my neighbor thought I had covered part of our patio roof with a white cloth. We sat outside enjoying the flowers and a little wine during the last full moon. It was quite a show: a blanket of fragrant white flowers under the moonlight. It was a wonderful way to unwind after a long day at work.
More pluses: It doesn’t require much care, just feed it and give it a good pruning once a year in spring. The bees, butterflies and moths love it. It also provides a hiding place for birds. When there is not much else blooming late in the season, this clematis brings life as well as providing food.
There is a walkway to the patio, bottom left, that was reduced down to a four foot high gap. This happened in just one season!
I’ve been doing my best to create a garden that have flowers from early spring to late fall, both day and night. It’s getting there but I don’t know when I’ll finish. I’m not going to beat myself up for it since a true garden will never be done anyway; it just evolves. I don’t remember who proclaimed that but it’s a comfort to know that someone out there has the same mentality.
Flowering plants for late spring to early summer are the easiest to find, but there are not that many choices for early spring and late fall. There are even less selections when it comes to vines. A few years ago I looked for vines or rambling roses to cover our less than attractive, chain link pool fence, hoping to give us some privacy. I found Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’ (Clematis turniflora) in one of the catalogues and ordered two of them. One of them turned out to be something that I didn’t expect…a Clematis ‘Montana’ (Clematismontana var. rubens). This is one rare moment I don’t regret getting the wrong merchandise in the mail.
The Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’ really lives up to its name. When it blooms it is flooded with small, lightly fragrant white flowers as soon as the temperature drops in September. We have it climbing up to the patio roof so it looks like there is snow covering that corner of the roof. It can grow to 30 feet in a season. I prune it down to the main branch every spring but it grows right back up the roof by mid summer. Here how it looks by early September…..
Autumn will be here in a week; September 22nd is the first day to be exact. I don’t really go by the date when I think of autumn. I depend on the temperature and plants in the garden to tell me that fall is coming. The same goes for spring when I’m prompted to start sowing seeds by the sprouting of weeds.
I know I have a few flowers that bloom until the first frost, but haven’t been concerned until this year when I acquired honey bees. I want to make sure that they have enough natural food to last the winter. The temperature has been down below 50F in the last couple of nights, but has gone up between 70F and 80F during the day. The honey bees won’t come out foraging until the temperature is above 50F, but the resident Bumblebees have been very busy from early morning until last light. There doesn’t seem to be any competition between them. They seem to co-exist pretty well, unlike the wasps.
There are still plenty of flowers in the garden, Garden phlox, Coreopsis as well as herbs and vegetables flowers. I let the Goldenrod (Solidago) grow and set seeds. I know it is a weed but what constitutes a ‘weed’ anyway. On the other side of the globe, Goldenrod is a cut flower and being sold in the market. Farmers Markets in NYC also sell them. I guess the phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” still rings true. I like them for the bright yellow flowers when there is not much else blooming, and for how much the insects and birds love them. Our resident honey bees can also forage on them from mid-summer to fall.
Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’ (Clematis turniflora) really has a perfect name. As soon as the temperature cools down, it starts to blossom. It is a sign of autumn approaching. They create a cluster of small white flowers so dense that they look like snow from afar and they are lightly but beautifully fragrant. A plus side? Bees love them. A minus side? It can grow to 30 feet in one season. I cut everything down to a couple of feet off the main branch in spring; it grows right back on to our roof by the end of summer.
Another autumn flower is Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’. It’s great for full sun and dry areas, and it’s hard to kill. As soon as the flower blossoms, the whole mop head will fill with all types of insects. I’ve never really liked it much, but it came with the house so I keep it. I keep dividing them and replanting them in an area that doesn’t need much care. I may look for a different variety next year since I want to provide a variety of food for my resident bees in fall.
Abelia (Abelia grandiflora) is another staple for mid-summer to frost blooming. This compact shrub with dark green leaves provides little white cluster flowers with a light fragrance. I don’t have to do much aside from cutting some old stems off at the base in spring so it doesn’t get too crowded. Mulching with compost once a year keeps it in good health.
I can’t leave this last one out, Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii). This lovely shrub can be very invasive if I let the flowers set seeds. But it makes up for the down side by providing a lot of beautiful and fragrant flowers. They are still blooming in our garden in September, though less than a month or so ago, but still providing scent for the garden and food for the insects.