Tuesday, 25 October 2011

clematis in a wild garden

At Gibraltar Point on the Lincolnshire coast on Sunday. In small clumps in the dunes or nestled among the sea buckthorn was entwined Old Mans Beard (Clematis vitalba). We should always look to nature for our inspiration.


Growing in the salty sand and blasted by the Scandinavian winds, this clematis seemed well-behaved and belied its reputation for swamping hedgerows and trees.



Clematis are members of the Ranunculacae family which also includes buttercups. They are only woody ranunculus. The Ranunculacae are moisture loving plants and so it was a surprise to see Old Man's Beard growing in the sand dunes.


Its reputation for vigorous growth suggests that we should use it with care at Cordwood. Its seedheads (or achenes) were, however, beautiful and reminded me of the passion I had for the clematis family over ten years ago. The disadvantage of clematis for us is clear as they love moist and fertile soils - ours is neither. The other disadvantage for us is that the majority of clematis varieties are not a source of nectar or pollen for insects although vigorous ones can provide roosting and nesting places for birds and shelter for invertebrates.


Species clematis, for instance clematis tangutica, are tough old things and have survived in the sandy soil of our former garden and so may be worth using.  They have distinctive yellow bell-shaped flowers and when the flowers are finished leave the same distinctive seed heads that decorate the stems of over-wintering Old Mans Beard.

Mediterranean clematis cirrhosa are better adapted to drier conditions so would seem better choices than their fussier cultivar cousins. The montana group, too, due to their vigour and explosion of colour in spring may find a home in our new garden, garlanding larger trees. Clematis montana grandiflora's large white flowers would complement the darker foliage of conifers.









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