THE most popular climbers come
in hundreds of different varieties these days. from hybrids
with flowers the size of dinner plates to wild species such
as the tiny white flowered but intensely fragrant Clematis
Most people buy Clematis in the spring, when the plants are
looking at their most appealing in the garden centre. They
are easy to grow. but respond especially to certain cultural
When buying, look first at their root system. Even if the
top part of the plant is massed with bloom, do not buy
unless the pot is filled with healthy roots. If the
supporting stick makes it awkward to carry home simply
remove the stick and let the plant flop over.
Even if the plant breaks right off, no harm is done. the
roots are what matters. Plant deeply enough to bury the
plant roots plus a few buds of the stem. These will develop
roots of their own and ensure a multi-stemmed plant. Plant
in good soil, as cool as possible but not exposed.
As aftercare, water frequently during the first season and
feed from time to time. Mulch to keep the roots cool. People
are often confused about when and whether to prune. Rule one
is don't worry! Even if you prune the wrong sort you'll do
no permanent damage.
The simple guide is this: if the Clematis flowers before the
longest day, don't prune, except to tidy and even then, only
immediately after flowering. If it flowers after the longest
day, you can prune hard every winter.
To get the best out of your Clematis and other climbers,
they need to be trained. Walls, fences and trellis work
should be equipped with stout wires to which climbing stems
can be trained. Different climbers have different needs and
wall plants such as Pyracantha or Chaenomeles make ideal
host plants for other lax climbers to grow through.
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