I have a thing for flowering vines. I’m not really sure why, but I’ve always loved the idea of an arbor or trellis covered in beautiful blooms. I’ve grown climbing roses, wisteria, even gourds over a trellis, and they have all been spectacular. However, for me, the best climber out there is the clematis.
My love affair with clematis started early. My grandmother had a purple variety that covered her porch supports for years, and it was always a great performer. So, as I got older, they were a likely pick for me.
Sure, clematis are easy on an arbor or something that has thin supports for the plant to spin its tendrils around, but many years ago, I was curious if they would work on something less plant friendly. When I was in college, I decided to plant some sort of climber on my parents’ clothes line supports. They are wooden 4x4s, in the shape of a cross. They aren’t the most attractive supports, but they do serve their purpose. I thought it would soften them a bit and also make an impressive display if I could grow a flowering climber up the supports.
I decided I would give the clematis a chance. I planted one clematis right up against the base of each support (I think they were the Vagabond variety). The biggest concern I had was, because they are 4x4s, it was too big for the clematis to wrap around. I knew I would have to help them along until they reached the cross pieces and could support themselves. That first year, I helped the vine grow by tying the branches around the clothes line support as it grew. Unfortunately, that first year, it didn’t get large enough to reach the cross beam, but I kept hoping. Also, unfortunately that first year, the guys who cut the lawn got a little too close with the weed whacker. Luckily, the roots were still strong and they came back the following spring.
After putting a little fence around the bottom, and for a few years tying the branches and helping them up the posts, they finally got big enough to reach the cross beam. One secret was I didn’t cut the clematis back in the fall or spring. The new growth would sprout from the old wood, so it would very quickly reach the height I needed. And the old growth also acted as a support for new shoot to cling to as they climbed the support.
As you can see, these clematis put on a nice display for my parents every spring. And it took a while, but they were one of the most rewarding ventures I had when I started gardening on my own. I think they still look great today!