CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It seems like we battle unwanted vines constantly in our yard. Kudzu, wild grape and bittersweet seem to leap across the trees and through the woods around our property, choking the branches of the oaks along the driveway.
So when I told my husband I was going to buy some new vines this year, he almost choked himself. I quickly explained that I wanted more flowering vines, and he calmed a bit.
I planted several clematis vines many, many years ago, and while a few are glorious each year, a few have seen better days. I wasn't much of a planner back then, so I didn't keep track of the types of vines I had planted, and I'm never sure whether to cut them back or to leave them. Clematis is a confusing plant to me, because some of them bloom on old wood and some on new.
Imagine my delight when I came across the cultivar 'Rosemoor.' It flowers on both old and new wood, and will bloom up to five months straight. Created by master clematarian Raymond Evison, 'Rosemoor' has giant flowers that are 5 to 6 inches across, in a rich shade of reddish-purple with a small, frilly yellow center. It will reach 7 feet tall and 6 feet wide, and will easily cover a trellis, lamppost or mailbox with blooms from late spring through fall. It grows best when its roots are in shade and its tops are in the sun. (You can plant among shrubs so the roots are shaded.) Mulch very well around this plant to keep the soil temperature uniform, and give it something to climb.
Another clematis that's touted as perfect for containers or in the garden is the 'Florida Alba Plena' that gets beautiful double blooms ranging from key-lime-pie to white. I've read that this one takes at least a year to establish, but that it's worth the wait for the 3- to 4-inch blooms with a star-shaped silhouette and a large, showy central pompon of pointy petals. This plant is not too large or rangy either. Just 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, it is easily grown in a container, trained up through an open-branched shrub or small tree, or wound around pillars, mailbox posts and other supports. It flowers on new wood and needs to be cut back to about a foot from the ground in late winter.
(By the way, clematis is one of those plants that I always mispronounce. Remember the old song that went, "You say toe-may-toe, I say toe-mah-toe?" Well, I always say "klee-MAT-us"; the folks on the fancy gardening shows say "KLEM-uh-tis." I did some research, and both versions are right. I won't even start to describe how I pronounce liriope.)
A vine that I really look forward to planting this year is the variegated kiwi, Actinidia kolomikta 'Arctic Beauty.' It's a perennial vine that blooms in white or cream, and the foliage will catch your eye, as well: it's pink, white and medium green. The plant grows 3 feet wide by 15 feet tall and is loved by butterflies and hummingbirds. The male plant puts all of its energy into bloom production, making no fruit. The blooms are quite fragrant.
The first year it grows in your garden, it will merely establish itself, setting new leaves of plain to purplish-green. Once the next year arrives, the variegation will begin in earnest, and will improve each season until large, mature heart-shaped foliage may be more than half pink and white. At 5 inches long, these leaves are impressive.
The blooms are far more ornamental on 'Arctic Beauty' than on the species as well, with a creamy-white look and a sweet fragrance in late spring and early summer. They give this cultivar its name, standing out all over the plant in great profusion and attracting both butterflies and hummingbirds to pay their respects.
A nonclinging climber that won't sucker onto wood or other support, this vigorous vine asks only to be trained up a trellis, arbor, wall, or other vertical accent. It is robust and large, reaching 15 to 20 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide in most gardens, but is not a huge, rangy, out-of-control grower as some climbers are. It is well mannered and easy to shape into just the design you like. It survives harsh winter weather beautifully, yet also won't melt out or lose its bright colors in heat and humidity. The best variegation will be in full sun, but it can tolerate light shade without damage.
Reach Sara Busse at sara.bu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.