Who could help but admire the delicate nodding flowers of clematis alpina? The plant becomes densely covered with small buds which burst open into a perfect hanging bellshape revealling a white centre. These are followed by fluffy seed heads that carry on the interest later in the year.
All of our early flowering clematis grew up metal trellis attached to the walls. They are also equally happy scrambling through a bush or a tree.
Clematis alpina "Constance"
Clematis alpina "Helsinborg"
We couldn't grow Clematis Armandii in Orkney due to the cold, salt-laden winds. But in the present garden it's lancet, shiny evergreen leaves are bronze when young. It has almost finished flowering for this spring but often puts on a second show in a few months.
The four petalled flowers have a delicate fragrance.
I don't prune these early flowering clematis unless they put on a lot of growth and look as if they're going to take over. Then I whack them back with a pair of secateurs to a healthy bud. The only real guideline is to do this immediately after flowering. If they get too out of hand I have cut them back almost to the ground in the past.
Perhaps this tendency to put on a lot of growth in a short time and their slightly untidy habit is the reason some gardeners don't take to the early flowering alpinas.
Clematis alpina "Constance" sending up long shoots. If I catch them quickly enough (before they get brittle) I twine them along the metal support. In this case I was a bit late as you can tell...
The clematis Armandii can grow up to 5m in height and with a spread of 3m. So if you're going to grow it give it plenty of space.
This next image shows armandii after three seasons. It's covered the wall, grown partially over an arch (put up that year to accommodate it's extra growth, then mangled by last January's gales) and then started to scramble through the ceanothus next to it.
So please don't do as I do, do as the gardening books recommended and give C. Armandii plenty of room or you may live to regret it.
Clematis alpina "White columbine" has reached the top of the roof of the garden room and is invading the rhone (guttering). It's due a severe haircut after flowering.
The clematis montana are now in bud. Here's Clematis montana "Freda" ready to put on a show at any moment.
And here is an opportunist Clematis Montana growing out of the wall in the vegetable garden. I didn't plant it but it's a very welcome addition with it's simple white flowers.