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Clematis,their History and Impact on Gardens

Updated on August 9, 2015


This article looks at the history of these beautiful plants, and the impact they have had in the gardens all over the world. The historical facts refer to when the plants were introduced into the UK.along with their origins. However, since the time of the introduction they have been introduced to many other countries in the world, where they do not naturally occur. The beautiful flowers of the clematis brighten and cheer almost any garden or house wall with their variety of colour and structure.


Favourite flowers of garden and greenhouse {1896-1897}
Favourite flowers of garden and greenhouse {1896-1897}

Characteristics of clematis.

Clematis belong to the natural order of plants known as Ranunculaceae {buttercup family}. They consist of about 300 defined species that occur in the warm and temperate regions of the world. They are woody or herbacious climbers with opposite leaves, divided into three or more leaflets, with twining tendril like petioles.

The flowers are borne in panicles or solitary and in general are attached by long stalks. The sepals are large and petal -like, in a natural state of four but in cultivars the varieties have often many more. There are a variety of colours available to the modern day gardener.

the petals are absent , or very small and gradually passing into stamens. The stamens are numerous, often brightly coloured. The carpels {fruits} are many and usually bearing long feathery styles, which increase in size and become ornamental after the sepals have fallen away.

History of clematis

The clematis has been a favourite garden plant from an early period, C.Viticella 'Virgin's bower' was introduced to England from Spain in 1569. A considerable number of species were decidedly ornamental in a natural state, but the popular garden sorts are the result of cross breeding and selection that occured during the early part of the 1800's.

The oldest recorded hybrid was C.hendersoni, said to have been raised in 1835 from C,viticella and C. integrifolia. The principal raisers of the large flowered clematis were Mr.G Jackman, nursery man ,Woking; Mr. J.Anderson -Henry, an amateur of Edinburgh; Mr. Townsend, nursery man, Hornsey, messrs E.G. Henderson and sons, nursery men St.Johns Wood, and Mr. C. Noble, nursery man ,Bagshot.

French and Belgium nursery men also raised many fine varieties by the early 1800's. Those grown at the time were Clematis coccinea {now C. Texensis} coccinea meaning red was introduced from Texas around 1781. The stems were climbing. The leaflets ovoid, shining-lobed. The flowers were produced singly on long slender stalks. The flowers are urn -shaped, fleshy, coral red, about one and a half inches long, which appeared in July..It was recommended that the plant should be planted where its thin stems could trail over a bush. It required the shelter of a wall except in the warmer parts of England.

Messrs G.Jackman and Son crossed this plant with a large flowered variety named ' Star of India' and produced a new race with handsome fleshy flowers.

Clematis var 'Nelly Moser'

Public domain
Public domain | Source

Clematis texensis Var princess Diana


Clematis flammula

C.flammula { the specific name means flame} now referred to as the ' Fragrant virgin's bower' was a native of Europe, which produced small white flowers which were scented. The flowers were produced in clusters from July until October. It was a familair hardy plant, from which florists have obtained a large number of handsome varieties and hybrids. The then popular variety 'Jackmanni was such a plant. It is still popular today under the name of Jackmannii. It was introduced to England as a variety in 1862.

C. florida {specific name means florid} is known as the Asian Clematis, introduced from Japan in 1772. The flowers are large and solitary, pure white, from the ripened wood in spring and summer. The leaf is divided into 3-9 oval leaflets, hairy on both surfaces. There is also a double form {flora plenso} besides several ornamental varieties.

C.indivisa { the specific name means undivided} was introduced from New Zealand in the 1840's. The flowers are creamy white or white, produced in panicles during April. The leaves are leathery , smooth, of three entire oval leaflets, each ending in a hard point. It is a rapid grower but was only half hardy and restricted to being a conservatory ornamental.

C.languginosa { specific name means downy} is a native of China introduced to this country in 1851. The leaves are broad and heart shaped, smooth above woolly below. The lower ones are divided into three leaflets, it has magnificent pale blue flowers, sometimes exceeding eight inches across, which appear in July until October. The variety 'pallida' has even larger flowers

Clematis vitalba

The native species of England
The native species of England | Source

Clematis erecta

Clematis vitalba Traveler's joy

Clematis vitalba {the specific name means white vein } is our own native {England} clematis, known commonly as ' Old Man's beard' and 'Traveler's Joy', so plentiful on English hedges, particularly in the more southern counties.

The flowers are only about one inch across, of a greenish white colour, slightly fragrant. They appear from July to September and the are succeeded by the more conspicuous grey 'beards' produced by the development of the feathered styles.

Cultivation tips.

The clematis is valuable in gardens no matter how large or how small the garden may be.They produce a richness of flowers either in beds or for rapidly covering walls, trellises, arbors or old tree stumps. Any soil will suit it provided that it is deep and well drained. However, a rich loam, well manured gives the best results, and in dry weather a liquid feed/manure should be given liberally.

Care should be taken in cutting back during the winter for spring flowering varieties may be deprived of their flowers. Those of the languginosa type , and others that regularly die back, need only to have their dead wood cut away. Other varieties should be cut back where growth has been so great, as to be an inconvenience, as the process retards the period of flowering.

Propagation may be achieved by cuttings, layering, grafting or from seeds. Cuttings should be taken from young shoots, inserted in sandy soil and placed in gentle heat. layering can be practiced out of doors anytime. The bark of the joint should be scraped slightly before covering with soil, and should be kept watered. Before the new growth starts in the spring the layers, which should now be well rooted, should be separated and placed where they are required.

In grafting this is done in early spring, a young shoot is inserted in a cleft root of some such species as C.flammula, tied up, and potted in small pots, placed in a propagation frame, and kept warm and moist. They should soon unite and should be gradually hardened off.


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    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Riviera Rose, Hi nice to meet you. Thank you for visiting and for leaving your appreciated comments. There are now varieties that that thrive in the sun, just so long as the roots are in the shade and kept moist. Best wishes to you.

    • Riviera Rose profile image

      Riviera Rose 5 years ago from South of France

      Such beautiful plants, a serious gardening friend of mine in the UK swears by them to fill every corner of her garden. It's a huge regret of mine that they're just not compatible with the hot and dry Mediterranean climate. Beautiful photos and illustrations, voted up.

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Aviannovice , Hi Deb, clematis would certainly enhance any structure as you describe, they make a beautiful display. Thank you for your visit and your comments. Best wishes to you .

      pstraubie, You are very welcome. Clematis is certainly an option for your trellis. Your nursery will give you all the advise you need , on which species, where to position it etc. Best wishes to you.

      tillsonitan--Hi, thank you so much for your appreciated comments. best wishes to you.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      I had no idea clematis were around so long! They are truly lovely flowers and your choice of pictures is lovely as well. Very educational.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 5 years ago from sunny Florida

      Thanks for all of this info. I am adding many plants to my yard this summer and especially am interested in trellis plants. This looks so beautiful that hunting for them this week at the nursery will be on my list.

      Sending Angels your way today :) ps

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 5 years ago from sunny Florida

      Thanks for all of this info. I am adding many plants to my yard this summer and especially am interested in trellis plants. This looks so beautiful that hunting for them this week at the nursery will be on my list.

      Sending Angels your way today :) ps

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      The clematis is beautiful. I knew someone that had two plants on both sides of the garage door, a old rickety looking building on the outside. The flowers enhanced it so much, just climbing up the outer wall.