Evergreen Clematis

Evergreen Clematis

"They may talk of love in a cottage,
And bowers of trellised vine -
Of nature bewitchingly simple,
And milkmaids half divine."

-Nathaniel Parker Willis,


Evergreen clematis (Clematis armandii) is somewhat ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest where there are fewer truly evergreen vines to choose from than in more southerly climates. For a long time I evaded planting any because it was just too common in this zone. But I wanted a hardy evergreen vine for the alley-side of the garage wall, & I wanted it to be something that would filled the garage with pleasant scents coming through the paneless windows. It really seemed a good idea to let one of these rapid-growing vines climb right up to the roof of the garage then spill downard from up above. Lower on the wall had already been planted with summer-fragrant honeysuckles.

The evergreen clematis is in full beautiful bud in February then in amazing flower in March, continuing through April. Mild rebloom can be expected throughout summer. The flowers are brilliantly white stars that smell just wonderful.

This vine is best for zones 8 & 9, though with protection it might be fudged up or down into other zones. In hot climates or in climates with frequent freezes it is not apt to do well. For Puget Sound, however, it can be regarded as ultra-hardy.

It requires a very strong trellis, as it grows rapidly to twenty feet & won't stop there. It easily gets out of hand unless pruned every year after flowering. The vines will otherwise get thicker & woodier & build up layer upon layer, the underlayers looking like dead wood & rather unlovely. This is true only when the plant is well matured. The first few years it may not require much pruning. Young vines are prettiest, yet a leader can be chosen to permit it to grow into a trunk so that it leafs primarily over the roof of a shed, arbor, pergola, or garage. Its lower portion tends in time to be less pretty than overhead, which is partly why I only considered it for the alley. When the lower limbs of an old specimen are kept free of new vines, the lower wall can be reserved for smaller vines such as hybred deciduous clematis, annual morning glories, or honeysuckles.

It is a native to China, where it climbs high into trees & where it flowers only high above. It flourishes in full sun or part shade, but in nature the roots would be far below the treetops in full shade, & in gardens it does not want its root area directly in the sun.


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