Saturday, July 25, 2009

Woodland Clematis

Clematis decipiens (previously included in Clematis microphylla)
I have just spent a delightful afternoon with friends, rambling over a hillside at Gowrie Junction where this plant is flowering spectacularly.
We wanted to learn how to distinguish between the male and female plants - and found it easier than we expected.

The male flowers held their heads up and looked us straight in the eye

- and were crowded in masses all over the plants.

The female flowers were numerous, but definitely not in such crowds, on the female plants.

They hung their heads modestly, their silky tresses gleaming in the slanting sun. We could actually pick them from afar by the gleam.

This clematis, with its creamy-yellow flowers, is one of my favourite plants, and I am surprised that it’s so rarely offered for sale, and almost never seen in gardens.
It’s a relatively small climber.
A trellis about a metre square would be enough for one plant. Its woody stems never get thicker than your little finger. It is so dainty that it looks delicate, but is really one of our toughest plants, resisting our worst droughts, and frosts. (Don’t expect the same frost hardiness from the white-flowered coastal variety of this plant.)

The female plants go on to produce these lovely “old man’s beard” seedheads in summer. Males are needed for pollination, of course, so for the best long-term display a number of plants would be grown to ensure having both sexes.
This is a particularly good plant to grow on a fence, but it can also be set free in a shrubbery, where it will go almost unnoticed until it flowers.

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