Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

The Best Season Ever: Spooner's Clematis in Bloom

A huge clematis with many hundreds of pristine white flowers in spring? Bring it on! Most often, a huge early-flowering clematis means one of forms of Clematis montana—whose blossoms are usually pink. But I was hankering for a massive spring-blooming clematis near my Concordia oaks and, in spring, their foliage is acid yellow.


So, pink flowers would be tricky even with the prominent yellow stamens of those of the clematis, which would call out to the throbbingly vivid oak leaves. Such stamen-to-foliage, clematis-to-oak color linkage is not just plausible, it's sophisticatedly subtle. I would have thought I'd have jumped at the change to be so clever.


But then I discovered Clematis spooneri, a white-flowered cousin of Clematis montana. Further, one can sometimes buy Clematis montana at Home Depot but, six years ago at least, my Clematis spooneri needed to come from a specialist in California. Much more impressive—and, oh, the flowers! 


Clematis spooneri flowers fingers 060618 915


But the vine that produces them has been a challenge. Like Clematis montana, flowers of Clematis spooneri are formed exclusively on growth from the previous year. So stems need to remain viable through the winter if there's to be any floral show the following spring. That new shoots will emerge from the base if old stems were killed back is only slight comfort: This isn't a clematis one would crave just for its foliage, and if stems don't live over the winter, rampant first-year regrowth of stems and foliage isn't enough.


Happily, my Clematis spooneri did survive the bitter historic low of this past winter, and graced me with flowers by the second-story window of the carriage house.


Clematis spooneri flowering portion 060618 915


But that doesn't solve the ten feet of bare stems they arose from.  


Clematis spooneri overall 060618 915


Although this species' hardiness is Zone 6, first year growth must not be quite that hardy: When I've tried renewing the entire vine with a fearless cut-back to low buds right after flowering, a lot of the resultant growth suffers die-back during the coming winter. This leads to more first-year growth...that isn't quite as hardy as older growth, which can suffer more die-back.


But glorious flowers at the tips of a tangle of seemingly dead stems isn't the triumphant spring display I was planning for. Instead, after the flowers are done, I'll patiently release the leafy growth from the column of honeysuckle to the right. I'll then remove the vertical section of rebar up which the clematis's bare stems have climbed, and extend the vine's whole lengthy mass leftward along the ground at the base of the carriage house. 


Then, I'll put that same vertical rebar back—but now behind the oak's trunk. (This would also be behind the vine maple, Acer circinatum, that I'm experimenting with growing in the dappled shade it prefers.) With this leftward shift in vertical ascent, the leafless-but-hardy main stems of the Clematis spooneri will be hidden by the oak and the vine maple. And the clematis's high-and-hardy, flowering-and-leafy growth could climb through the canopy of the Concordia oak.  


What a snappy combination that would be, with the white-and-yellow clematis flowers dancing cheek-to-cheek with the vivid oak foliage. If the hardiness of the clematis's top growth persists, then I can keep training it farther left along the horizontal rebar. It courses across the top of the pair of carriage-house doors immediately to the left of the oak in the picture; the possibility of a white floral swag above them is seriously motivating.


Stay tuned.




Here's a view of another giant spring-flowerer, Clematis fargesii. It, too, usually needs little attention.  

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