Friday, September 7, 2007

Sweet Autumn Clematis

It certainly is sweet, but it doesn't bloom in the autumn: how about sweet late summer clematis?

What induces flowering in this plant? A few weeks ago, while I was visiting in western Virginia, I saw this plant blooming freely in local gardens. I'm pretty sure the plants at home were not even showing flower buds at that time. The area in question is south of here. You would think that the farther south you went, the later the plants would bloom, not the earlier.

And how can the scent of the flowers be described? It's a complex scent, one of those scents which elicits different descriptions from different people. To some it smells like vanilla, to others almond, to others like both of those but with a bit of lemon added; a neighbor recently mentioned that one she once had smelled like ginger.

If you are as old as I am, for decades you knew this plant as Clematis paniculata. If you get the same catalogs I do, perhaps you remember the same confusion when you read about hybrids of Clematis paniculata which, as you read the description, sure didn't sound like the plant out in the garden. That Clematis paniculata is a New Zealand species. The plant in the garden has had many names over the years, but is now generally called C. maximowicziana.

In nearby northern Virginia, on the drive down to Alexandria, one passes areas where what seem to be acres are blanketed with a white-flowered, late-summer blooming clematis; is it this species or is it C. virginiana?

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