Sir Roddy Llewellyn - Love match

PUBLISHED: 11:44 21 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:36 20 February 2013



The rose and the clematis make a beautiful couple

The garden in August need not look tired and past its best as there are so many plants that can add generous splashes of colour right into the autumn. I am thinking particularly of two species of clematis, namely texensis and viticella. Both are vigorous growers that can easily be trained up small trees like apples, or large shrubs like philadelphus (mock orange) or cotinus (smoke bush) to great effect. These particular species of clematis are also very easy to prune. All you have to do is to cut them down to the ground in early winter meaning that you are not left with a dead tangled mess throughout the winter. They never, therefore, swamp their host plant unlike all the other types of clematis that flower earlier in the year which only require a light trim soon after they have finished flowering. The garden to visit to fully appreciate late summer-flowering clematis is at Burford House Gardens near Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire. There is a fabulous collection there.

Tennyson wrote:
Rose, rose and clematis
Trail and twine and clasp and kiss

He obviously recognised this plant combination as being a beautiful and classical one, examples of which are known today as marriage gardening. One such successful colour combination is the pale apricot flowers of Rosa Buff Beauty and the blue/purple blooms of Clematis viticella. Another, this time using a shrub is silver-leaved
Berberis temolaica and the deep violet-flowering Clematis viticella Etoile Violette. When it comes to a tree and clematis colour combination there is little to beat the rosy-pink flowers of Clematis viticella Abundance adorning a Juniperus Skyrocket, or indeed the golden foliage of Catalpa bignonioides peppered with the deep red velvet flowers of Clematis viticella Royal Velours.
When planting a clematis with the intention of growing it up a tree, it must be positioned some distance away from the base of the trunk,
say one metre (3ft), and then trained up some sort of framework, a long cane or even wire that leans in towards the tree. In the case of a tree that has outer branches close to the ground it will need to be planted even further away as the soil further away from a tree is bound to be richer and damper.
In any case prepare a nice rich hole for the clematis, remembering they all like a cool root run. Therefore, if the base of the clematis is shaded by another plant, all the better.

The adage if you count the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves is as relevant today as it was in post-war Britain. It makes economic sense to collect seeds from plants in the garden and now is the time to do it. Where would the border be without all those opium poppies that dot themselves around? Aquilegia, foxgloves, hellebores and flowering tobacco behave similarly but you can never be sure what sort of flowers they will produce until they actually open. This, I fear, is the result of living a promiscuous life. The art is to remove the seed heads of flowers that prove less exciting like those of the common foxglove (purple), for example, as opposed to white or pink ones. I tie red string on stems bearing more interesting flowers before they fade to remind me which plants can be left in situ to ripen and distribute their seed in their own innovative fashion. This is also the time to take (8cm/3) semi-ripe cuttings of a wide range of shrubs that are easily propagated in a sandy loam in a pot placed outside in semi-shade. If you prop up a clear plastic bag with small canes or twigs there will be less chance of the compost drying out through evaporation.

Sir Roddy Llewellyn gardens near Shipston-on-Stour.

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