Cool Feet for Clematis

Type 2 clematis

One of the most mystifying sayings in gardening is “Clematis like cool feet.”

In fact, I think there’s actually a “clematis conspiracy” going on. It’s not quite as bad as the “hydrangea hysteria” but it leads to a lot of needless confusion and worry among gardeners when it just doesn’t have to.

Those of you who have been gardening for a while may have heard the silliness. I’m not sure I’ve heard it talked about for a while now. It has to do with clematis “types” or “groups” and their pruning. And while I’m absolutely convinced that there must be a kernel of wisdom to it somewhere in some part of the country, in my part of the country, where I regularly flout convention and whack that lovely Type 2 clematis in the above photo to the ground in late November so that I can put greens on that lamp post (and then remove them in late December so that they provide no insulating value whatsoever for the little buds) you can see the result: lovely blooms despite everything.

The advice for pruning Type 2 clematis, by the way, is to prune them back to a strong pair of buds in the early spring. So I am clearly and flagrantly flouting all the advice.

I do, however, make sure that they have “cool feet” since they are growing in a very sunny spot at the top of a slope where the rain water (should we be lucky enough to have any) runs off. Also, you can see the tiny little “bed” they’re in.  That edging was only put there after the Spoiler weed whacked the stems into oblivion two summers in a row. (You see how he gets his name). And it also gives me a spot to tuck in a few strawberries–yes, that’s what’s giving the clematis their “cool feet” in this instance.

Clematis on tree

Here are some other varieties–3 of them actually–growing on a nearly dead dogwood tree. Every winter the Spoiler says, “We need to take down this tree,” and every year I say the same thing: “We can’t! My clematis grow on it!” It will be my fault when the whole thing comes crashing down (like that apple tree) under the weight of these vines.

In this case, I have ‘Golden Tiara’ hosta at the “feet” of the clematis. The shade is so dense that grass pretty much refuses to grow (although violets do fine.) But the clematis climb up into the sun and everything is happy.

This dogwood is in, at most, 4″ of soil. It’s on bedrock. I think last winter I showed a photo of many of the trees and their roots, running above ground, because of all the bedrock in my yard. The Japanese maple, whose leaves are just visible in the photo above has its roots above ground. Astonishing what plants can endure!

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