The Vines

A wall of vines - that is what I am seeking to obtain. Living lush rich walls of foliage. A flush of beautiful delicate flowers in the spring followed by a rich soothing wall of green all summer. One needs vines for such a purpose and one of the best of all is the clematis. They breeze through the frigid - 40 temps that hit Calgary and can handle the extreme temperature changes that we experience due to our Chinooks in the winter. They do not need any babying whatsoever to survive here. Most people are acquainted with the large flowered Clematis, the Jackmani that flowers in the summer. But the clematis I am referring to are primarily the Alpinas and the Macropetalas. They are are tremendously hardy and healthy and grow quickly. The vines remain up all winter on their trellis's - unprotected.  They greet the early spring with a wild and lush wave of delicate blossoms then continue to grow and thicken and thrive and the foliage becomes a thick wall of green for the summer. Most clematis have thin delicate deeply serrated leaves and the shadows that hover beneath them create a highly textured visual treat for the eyes. They are easily my favorite vine and there are many beautiful blossom colours to choose from.  White, various shades of pink, mauve, blue and purple. Upon the recommendation of a very knowledgeable gardener I have covered my trellis' withchicken wire. The clematis easily pulls itself upward and outward, it's fine curling tendrils twining around anything they encounter. They need no help from the gardener's hands. This is a beautiful, hardy easy care vine that enhances every space. It only needs to be trimmed to suit yourself. If you like a tidy look you can trim it every year right after they bloom. If like me - you like it to be full and lush and a little wild leave it alone to do it's own thing.
Hints When Buying and Planting Clematis
If you go to the garden centers in the spring you can frequently see the clematis in bloom which is wonderful as you can then pick exactly the one(s) that appeal to you. Look for a vine that looks healthy and unblemished. Note how many stalks are coming up from the soil. The more the better. On the day of planting water your clematis with a transplant solution of water and 10-52-10 fertilizer (mixed according to package directions) and let it sit and nourish itself while you dig it's new home. Or get someone else to dig a rather deep hole, perhaps 16 inches deep if you can manage it by 14  -18 inches wide. Dig, dig, dig. Done. After you have dug your hole place a shovelful of compost or aged manure into the bottom (not fresh manure). You can add a small handful of bone meal or blood meal but be aware of your soil type first. Calgary soil tends to be very alkaline.  Blood meal will make the soil more acidic & bone meal will make the soil more alkaline.  Add the appropriate meal if you wish and mix it with the compost. Place the clematis in the bottom of the hole so that the top of the soil where the clematis meets the soil in the pot is about 6 - 8 inches below the surface of the ground. Place something around the newly planted vine to keep the soil back - perhaps cut out the bottom of a large perennial pot and place it over the clematis. Fill the soil in around the pot right up to the surrounding ground. Inside the pot add soil only until the surface of the soil around the plant is 6 - 8 inches from the top of ground. The reason for this is that you want the stems to harden off throughout the summer then in the fall (or even the following spring) you will remove the pot and fill the soil in around the plant right up to the height of the surrounding soil. If your clematis is approximately 1 foot or more high then trim it back to about 6 - 8 " high. It is hard do this but you will be happy later that you did. It will cause the plant to produce more shoots and therefore become a fuller plant sooner. If you cannot do it yourself then give someone else the shears and close your eyes and let them get on with the deed. You will have a far fuller plant just like when you pinch back tomatoe plants or petunias.  
The first clematis on the left is a Helsingborg Clematis, then a Lemon Bell Clematis then the only large flowered clematis I own. Unfortunately I do not know what it is as the label was missing but it was in bloom and was so lovely I bought it against my better judgement. Hopefully I will be able to figure out which one it is this summer... in front of the clematis is a small Meadow Rue (Thalictrium).

There are lilac shrubs on either side of the shed. A Frances Rivis Clematis is engulfing the shed and reaching right into the lilacs almost to the top and right through to the other side.  The shrub in the forefront is a young Therese Bugnet shrub rose.

Bluebird Clematis (Clematis Macropetala) on the arched trellis.

Francis Rivis Clematis clambering through French Lilac's near the ground

Close up of a Lemon Bell clematis. It's stems are square and a deep wine purple. The flowers are lovely down turned yellow bells.  This summer I will have to take more pics as I lost most of my garden pics when my computer crashed a number of months ago. The backup memory card I saved everything to - well, it is safely hidden in my house somewhere ...

Clematis Constance (Clematis Alpina) facing north.

Clematis Willy (Clematis Alpina) growing in a shady corner.

This Clematis Helsingborg (Clematis Alpina) is in a very shady location.


  1. You have a very beautiful garden, I especially adore the wooden door into the garden. I would really like to copy the picture with lilacs and Clematis Macrobetala with a link to my garden blog. Would you accept it? I bought myself one today, typical for me first to buy and then start wondering the right place to plant it... :)

  2. Hi Lumikide, thank you for your lovely comment. Please feel free to link to any photographs on my blog that you like. I really love the Clematis Macropetalas. They are so beautiful and they are hardy and tough. The vines stay up all winter then leaf out and flower profusely in the spring! A really great vine, as not many do that well in Zone 3b.