Winter: Planning Time

Winter is a great time to sit back and enjoy the emptiness in the garden. Our garden is not quite empty since I left a lot of seed heads intact for the birds and insects. Some brush piles for them to take refuge in from the cold, situate here and there. Still, it’s much emptier than during the growing season.

Winter is also a time for planning the next phase of the garden. Plant catalogs start to pack our mailbox. I’ve been mindful of what I select for the garden, one or two new plants a year and they have to be multipurpose. Aside from looking good in the garden, it has to be a food source for birds or insects. Native to northeastern part of the U.S. is a plus. Otherwise it has to grow vertically like all the climbers and ramblers.

Those who have limited space like us would understand that last reason for choosing plants that grow upward rather than outward. This is the reason we added clematis to our garden. Clematis can grow on a trellis, mailbox or entwine on shrubs or roses. We have planted five different clematis so far but I would recommend only three of them.

Clematis ‘Betty Corning’ on a trellis with ‘Sundrop’ to the left

Betty Corning‘ produce hundreds of small lavender flowers with a slight scent. The flowers look like small bells swaying in the wind. Bumblebees love them. This clematis seems to bloom forever once it starts to bloom. Ours bloom from late May to September. I cut it down to a foot and a half in late winter and feed it. Throughout the growing season, I keep cutting the spent flowers off so it will continue to produce new flowers.

‘Ville de Lyon’ produces plenty of deep red flowers

Clematis ‘Ville de Lyon‘ is another clematis with a long blooming time. Though it’s less dense than ‘Betty Corning’, it has bigger flowers which can make a trellis disappear underneath. The bright red petals get even redder in the rain. I cut the dead stems off in early spring (when I see no new buds sprouting from that stem). I also cut the unruly, overgrown stems off as well.

‘Crystal Fountain’ produces a very big flower with lighter color fringes in the middle

We have ‘Crystal Fountain‘ clematis growing up a trellis and entwined with ‘Himalayan Musk’ rose. It makes a really good statement with very large flowers, plenty of them.

I plan to add one more clematis in the garden this spring, maybe another yellow or white. I want to add more colors to the garden without taking up too much space and clematis seems to be a perfect choice.

Clematis

Companion Plants

Growing roses without growing clematis is almost a crime. They are supposed to be great companions for one another.  It’s not the term I normally use but this is what I read in gardening books and websites.  I can confirm this information as accurate having now grown a few kinds of clematis with roses.  Lucky that I didn’t try to grow the Clematis ‘Montana’ (Clematis Montana var. rubens) and Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’ (Clematis terniflora) with any roses.  They are very unruly, very fast growers and would have suffocated the roses.  They are better standing alone or climbing a tree.

What we have in the garden seems to work well with the roses.  It’s the type that grows 8 to 10 feet high like the clematis pictured below.

The clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’ is lovely next to the ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ rose.  There were more flowers in late spring, but now just a scant few blooms here and there.

Lined up Clematis 'Crystal Fountain' at the base of Paul's Himalayan Musk rose
Lined up Clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’ at the base of Paul’s Himalayan Musk rose

Crystal Fountain close up
Crystal Fountain close up

We grow Clematis ‘Belle of Woking’ on the opposite side of Rose ‘Blaze’ on a trellis.  They seem to do well together especially when the ‘Belle of Woking’ flowers are fully opened and turn from lavender to almost white in color before the petals drop.

Clematis 'Belle of Woking' next to a 'Blaze' rose
Clematis ‘Belle of Woking’ next to a ‘Blaze’ rose

Belle of woking close up
Belle of woking close up

We added the Clematis ‘Betty Corning’ (Clematis viticella) to the garden planted near the ‘Eden’ rose last year.  It has proved to be perfect.  Though it is a fast grower, it’s very well behaved and produces plenty of little lavender colored flowers with a faint fragrance.

Clematis 'Betty Corning' next to the newly sprouted 'Eden' rose
Clematis ‘Betty Corning’ next to the newly sprouted ‘Eden’ rose

Betty Corning close up
Betty Corning close up

Most of the clematis flowers have faded away by now.  Although the ‘Betty Corning’ is still producing flower buds.  I did add another clematis this year after I realized that, except for the Montana and Sweet Autumn, all the clematis in the garden have bloomed in a similar shade of lavender.  So I added Clematis ‘Rubromarginata’ (Clematis x triternata) which is supposed to produce small cream colored flowers with a violet edge, with an almond scent.  Let’s see how it turns out.

Clematis Montana

Blooms But Once A Year And It’s Worth It

It’s that time of year again: A time of colors and scents.  The unintended Clematis Montana (Clematis Montana var Rubens) proves itself of worthy for any garden again even though it blooms only once a year.  I can hardly see it’s leaves this spring.  The pool fence is covered with the beautiful pink flowers and it has attempted to climb up the patio roof.  We are still debating whether the scent is chocolate or vanilla.  Either way, I have an urge to eat the flowers every time I smell them.  I will be giving it a crew cut this year since it has been taking over other plants space.  Guilt ridden just thinking about cutting it but for everybody’s benefit (plant-wise) it needs to be done.

A great spot for having coffee in the morning or a glass of wine at dusk
A great spot for having coffee in the morning or a glass of wine at dusk

Clematis 'Montana' after the rain
Clematis ‘Montana’ after the rain

Making its ascent to the patio roof after climbing over the Abelia
Making its ascent to the patio roof after climbing over the Abelia

A cluster by the fence
A cluster by the fence

Wisteria

A Living Umbrella

I still remember the arresting scene of Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) that made me want to grow one.  That was when I walked under the Wisteria Pergola in Central Park when it was in full bloom.  A sea of lilac pealike flowers cascaded down over my head and a powerful sweet perfume filled the air.  I promised myself then and there that I would grow one when next I have a garden.

When I moved from New York City to the current address, I was lucky enough to have a neighbor who had them growing on her property.  She offered  me a runner years ago and I promptly planted it by our pool fence.  It proved to be a mistake since it grows several feet a season, too fast for such a small spot.  I dug it up and replanted it by a dead tree stump and put up a supporting pole to keep it straight up.  I also prune it every year to keep it in an umbrella shape.  It’s still too low to walk or sit under but it’s a lovely shape and it will continue to grow upward.  I think it loves where it is judging by the way it blooms so profusely and twice last year too.  The second time didn’t produce that many flowers though.  Aside from the lovely flowers, the fragrance perfumes our garden from morning to evening.  I guess it’s eye catching enough when the handsome young man who supervised a crew of men topping our trees asked me what it was and commented that “it’s stunning”.

One problem with growing Wisteria is that it produces a lot of runners.  I have to cut them off every year.  I also had to dig another one out from the original planting spot.  This year I have to dig one more out from the same spot and I hope it’s the last.  This one will be relocated to the front lawn.  It’s almost like the Day Lily, if you leave even a just a small section underground it will grow back.  But it’s still worth growing.

Wisteria Bud coming out.
Wisteria Bud coming out.

Blooming
Blooming

Using Birch branches as supports
Using Birch branches as supports

Close up.  They look very much like pea flowers
Close up. They look very much like pea flowers

We used a rope to hold it straight for a year.  It climbed up the rope to the Maple tree and produced a flowering string this year.
We used a rope to hold it straight for a year. It climbed up the rope to the Maple tree and produced a flowering string this year.

Flanked by Japanese Maples, with two bee hives in the back and a nest box currently occupied by a Blue bird family with two chicks.
Flanked by Japanese Maples, with two bee hives in the back and a nest box currently occupied by a Blue bird family with two chicks.

Poet Jasmine

The Poet

Yes, someone named this jasmine ‘Poet’ or ‘French Perfume’ (Jasminum grandiflorum).  I’m not sure I like the name or the scent best.  I can see why it get this name.  One whiff of its scent and you can write a few lovely lines of  poetry.  If you keep sniffing it, you may be able to pull a Robert Frost act.

It’s a lovely vine with very dark green leaves and 1.5 inch white flowers.  Its fragrance is a little bit sweeter than the Jasminum sambac and  seems to do well when the weather gets a little colder.  The temperature has been hovering around 50 degrees or lower at night and gone up to 60 or 70 during the day here.   It started to bloom as soon as the temperature dropped and blooms profusely now while the  Jasminum sambac like Maid of Orleans and Grand Duke of Tuscany are producing less and smaller flowers than in the heat of summer.  The Poet flowers also last longer than a day, but are not as fragrant when picked and taken into the house.  So, using it as an air-freshener like the Jasminum sambac is out.  Well, at this time of year we can sit and enjoy it outside longer since it is too cold for mosquitoes to fly around.  Maybe that was nature’s intent.

Pure white 1.5 inch flowers with a sweet fragrance

The blossom close up

Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’

Snow in Fall

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’ (Clematis montana 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…..

Plenty of flowers, hardly see leaves

Climbs right to the corner of the patio roof

With dewey petals in early morning

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