Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sweet Autumn Clematis

By the time I post this Hurricane Hermine will have arrived from the gulf bringing blessed rains to quell the field dust from the unrelenting weekend winds. Summer will have unofficially ended and Autumn will be ushered in with cool evenings and an aura of quietude. Heralding this event is the Queen of the Clematis family, the lovely Sweet Autumn, who is magnificent by all accounts. Requiring nothing more than a surface upon which to climb, this extraordinary and vigorous vine will grow to thirty feet in one season. There is no deferred gratification for this beauty to perform, for it will flower the first season with a glorious display of cascading blooms. Since it blooms in late summer through early fall, it allows for an exquisite exhibit when much in the garden has finished their show.

The Sweet Autumn Clematis hails from Japan originally but her popularity is universal and this lovely vine may be found from coast to coast. The mild vanilla fragrance of the flowers is not over-powering, yet is a gentle reminder of the sweet aroma of early spring. The lovely star shaped flowers are formed on numerous panicles creating an abundance of cascading flowers. Often there is such a profusion of flowers that it appears to have snowed!

The flowers will fade and yet the Sweet Autumn Clematis is not yet finished. She will provide an additional show of silvery plume-like seed heads which themselves become a perfect outdoor fall decoration for a moment in time. These interesting seeds are often dried and used in floral decoration.

Since the flowers form on the wood of this year's growth, the vine may be pruned drastically in the late spring. It may be pruned until it has only to six twelve inches of growth left and yet by mid-season it will have covered the trellis, fence or structure once again. Once established, it is practically indestructible.

The only important requirement is that it enjoys its roots shaded yet its head must be in full sunshine. Plant near a rock or other source of shade or even use a good mulch to provide enough darkness for the roots of this beauty because she can not stand to have her feet hot! Incredibly hardy, Sweet Autumn will provide many years of extraordinary beauty.

*Photo credit: Catherine Dougherty

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