If ever there was a life-long plant friend in my garden, ‘Bluebird’ is hands down, my BEST buddy.
Year after year, she never disappoints and just continues to grow stronger and improve with age. Very much like me! (can you see my tongue in my cheek or did I get away with that?).
I remember reading an article in ‘Canadian Gardening’ magazine, the winter we moved out to the country. It was about a garden in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan that absolutely BLEW ME AWAY with a photograph of an arbor that was overflowing with green and blue-flowered lushness. Lavender-blue bell-shaped flowers cascaded in profusion from the vine like exploding fireworks!
“THAT – grows here?!” Such opulence, I mistakenly assumed, was reserved for the west coast or southern climates, but certainly NOT the prairies.
Keep in mind this was all new to me. Discovering the endless possibilities of growing within our northern climate was an inspiring education for me to say the least. I was filled with shock and wonder when I began to realize just how many amazing and beautiful plants could be grown in our Zone 3, or in this case, Zone 2a in Saskatoon. (check out the zone maps on the Resources page to find yours if you don’t already know it!)
I thought, “Surely if it grows there…it will grow here!”
I was correct.
Some facts on this social climber – Clematis – the “Queen of Vines”
Clematis has a nasty reputation for being difficult to grow but the truth is, like most plants, it just wants to be understood and planted in the right place from the start.
Easier said than done you’re thinking? Stick with me…
HEAD IN THE SUN – FEET IN THE SHADE
Any seasoned gardener reading that is nodding their head in agreement right now…”Heard it before – tell me something I don’t know.”
Note: If you ever hear a catch phrase like that repeated again and again in relation to a particular plant – LISTEN TO IT – it is usually based on truth!
DIFFERENT TYPES OF CLEMATIS
- ALPINE (Clematis alpina)
- BIG-PETAL (Clematis macropetala)
- GOLDEN (Clematis tangutica)
- HYBRID (Clematis x hybrida)
- SOLITARY (Clematis integrifolia)
- VITICELLA (Clematis viticella)
The ‘Bluebird’ is a BIG-PETAL clematis. She covers the arbor that leads into our vegetable garden, enjoying the sunny position and a trellis for her tendrils to climb on with wild abandon.
I often feel like I’m stepping into a secret garden when I walk underneath and through the gate. It makes me smile every time.
Over the years the vines have grown thick and full and I’ll admit there is a little ducking required and the odd poke in the face from rogue branches. I can forgive that, as she forgives the occasional pruning to keep those reaching tendrils from taking an eye out…because it’s all fun n’ games until that happens right?!
Bluebird has been the summer home for many nesting birds over the years. The birds appreciate being able to tuck their nests deep within her thick growth for a perfect shelter from the rain and wind.
I bought my two ‘Bluebird’ plants through mail order from Lois Hole’s Greenhouses in Edmonton, Alberta because it was the only place I could find it at the time. They arrived in fantastic condition in 2 quart planting pots – I was totally impressed! (by the way – this was way before the internet was a gleam in ANYBODY’s eye…)
This plant can potentially live 20 years or more, so believe me, it is WELL WORTH your effort to spend half an hour planting it correctly from the start.
Give this Clematis a full sun position or light shade – but for heaven’s sake mulch the roots or grow a low spreader or other plant that will shade it at the base…the roots NEED to be cool.
Dig a deep hole – seriously – 2 feet deep and at least twice as wide as the container your plant comes in…more the better.
TIP: Make sure the structure you intend to grow the Clematis on is sturdy as hell, because the plant will outlive and take down anything too flimsy to stand up to it’s vigorous growth.
WHY SO BIG?
You’re going to fill that hole with the best soil you can give her and the first year of root growth is going to thank you for it – you will be rewarded with a strong, healthy plant ready to make a permanent home in your garden for decades to come.
Once I dug this hole, I scuffed up the bottom of the hole so it wasn’t packed down…the soil was ‘loose’ and it makes for much better drainage in the long run if you take that extra step.
Then I put 3 spadefuls of well-rotted sheep manure in the bottom, sprinkled in about a cup of bone meal, added good organic top soil – then used my hands to mix it all together.
TIP: Stay away from peat moss for Clematis – they prefer sweeter soil and peat moss will make it a touch too acidic.
I also had some leaf mold (rotted leaves) in our yard so I threw a VERY generous handful of that in as well.
Gently loosen the plant from the pot, untangle any pot-bound roots and spread them out in the hole with the stems buried 3 or 4 inches below the surface of the soil…then fill and tamp gently.
Make sure you eliminate any air pockets around the roots with your fingertips.
I filled my watering can with water and 1/4 cup of transplant fertilizer and gave it a good drink of water.
I trimmed back the top growth to the lowest two buds on each vine so most of the energy in the first year would go to the roots.
WATER DEEPLY – once a week for the first season.
Stand back and wait for the magic…
Do you have a Clematis in your garden that you’ve fallen in love with? Tips or planting suggestions you’ve learned along the way – please feel free to share in the comments because I would LOVE to hear about your favourite ‘Queen of the Vines’!
How I built my pond!
A beautiful water feature will enhance your garden landscape and invite magic into your own backyard...it's easier than you think!