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Clematis Flammula

An Introduction to Clematis Flammula

The common name of the Clematis flammula is “Fragrant Virgin's Bower”. This temperate liana can be found in southern Europe & northern Africa although today it’s cultivated around the world. It is used popularly as an ornamental addition to gardens. The deciduous, woody vine is well known for its fragrant flowers which are a striking white against the small green achenes. The fragrance is strongest when the flowers are freshly opened and has been described as a strong, sweet, almond fragrance or meadowsweet. The smell can be overpowering if inhaled up close.

Clematis, a genus consisting mostly of vigorous climbing lianas, is popular because of its attractive flowers. The species is often referred to as just Clematis although sub classifications are known by common names such as Leather Flower, Traveler’s Joy, Vase Vine and also Virgin's Bower. The last three names on this list are unique to species seen in Northern America. 

Among experienced gardeners Clematis is known as a very decorative flowering climber, 
With dense leaves that make it effective for providing shade for porches. It is ideal to place these plants in a location where there roots can be in the shade but the top of the plant can still get plenty of sun. Ideally they need around 6 hours of sun a day to reach their flowering potential although in regions with strong sun exposure the shade is also critical especially in the late afternoons.  Clematis flammula is in leaf from March to December and it flowers from August to October. This sun loving plant which does well in exposed positions is surprisingly hardy in that it can handle temperatures as low as -15°C.

In terms of soil requirements, this plant thrives in moist, well-drained deep soil and does not do well in poorly-drained heavy clay soils. You can manage to grow this plant well in clay if you add grit for drainage. The plant adapts to chalk but suffers in light sandy soils. The Clematis flammula is known to be successful in acid as well as alkaline soils. An interesting experiment is being done with these plants and Clematis flammula var. maritima is being created as a hardier variety and tested in sand dunes. The hope is to use the plant for soil stabilization to slow down erosion in some sandy beaches.

The seeds of this plant ripen from October to January. The flowers which have both male and female organs are hermaphrodite and bees and flies help with the pollinations. These plants need to be planted with their root balls at least 8cm deep in the soil to avoid what is known as clematis wilt. Pruning should be done in spring before new growth begins.  These plants are noticeably resistant to rabbit troubles and also immune to honey fungus.

The Clematis flammula tends to grow as a network of vines laden with the white flowers with the flowering period lasting through the warmer months. Gardeners and landscape designers usually place them near fences or trellises as their trailing beauty adds an elegant charm to the décor of the garden. The vine is also used for ground cover. If in planting the vine, you do not provide it a structure to climb on, it does climb on itself becoming a large, tangled and dense bush. The shoots emerging from this plant can grow to be as high as five meters.

It is worth noting that this plant with its intoxicating smell is considered poisonous. Also if it is not managed carefully it has a tendency to spread in an uncontrolled way and can become as problematic as weeds. As a matter of fact you will find the Clematis flammula listed in a few global weed encyclopedias.



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