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The queen of climbers

PUBLISHED: 09:00 22 March 2014

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The experts at Monkton Elm give us some tips on taking care of our gardens in March and fill us in on the most popular climbing plant of them all

Jobs for March

Plant out new herbaceous perennials, for summer colour.

Dig plenty of bulky, organic matter into the veg patch ready for planting. First early potatoes can go in now.

Sow hardy annuals direct into the soil, including annual poppies, cornflower, larkspur and poached egg plant.

Clematis have to be among the most popular of all climbing plants and for this month we are focusing on the Spring flowering varieties, which tend to be very hardy and reliable, unlike some of the large flowered Summer flowering hybrid varieties, which can be prone to clematis wilt and mildew.

This interesting and underrated group of clematis include the alpinas and macropetalas, whose dainty appearances belie their hardy nature, the vigorous evergreen Clematis armandii, and the very popular montana group, a common sight scrambling madly over walls and fences in May.

Clematis alpina – our favourite of the Spring flowerers, the nodding bell like flowers (actually four simple sepals) may appear from as early as March, when in a sheltered area. The fern-like foliage, appearing around the same time as the flowers, is an added attraction, and the season is extended with attractive, silky seed heads, which remain on the plant well into the Autumn. Blue is the most popular colour, such as Frances rivis and Pamela Jackman, whilst Constance is ruby red and Willy is shell-pink.

However, white moth is dazzling, with its small, double white, bell-shaped flowers glistening in Spring sunlight.

Alpinas are relatively compact, reaching 2-2.5 metres, perfect for the small garden.

The macropetalas are very similar but tend to flower slightly later, and are more vigorous, some varieties reaching 3.5m.

Popular varieties include Markham’s pink and Wesselton, which have larger flowers than other macropetalas.

Both alpinas and macropetalas are virtually trouble free and no pruning is necessary, but this can be undertaken immediately after flowering if required.

Clematis armandii is a different kettle of fish altogether. This vigorous evergreen clematis is capable of reaching well over six metres if grown in a warm, sheltered site, with the long, large shiny leaves protected from damaging winds.

Appleblossom is grown for its lovely fragrance filling the air during March and April. Again, prune after flowering if it outgrows its allotted space.

Clematis montana are very vigorous, 
and ideal for covering fences and walls. They can look lovely growing through 
trees and large shrubs. Broughton star Freda and Jacqui are less vigorous so more suitable for smaller gardens.

They are hardy and robust, but plant fragrant Spring and wilsonii in full sun, 
to enjoy their lovely scent. Prune after flowering if space is restricted.

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