Clematis armandii

This is evergreen (unlike most Clematis) and has a huge geographical distribution in most of China and northern Burma. All Clematises ever want to do is to get to the top of the nearest tree as quickly as possible. As a result, they all have a busyness up-top and an emptiness down below. The trick is to make use of this characteristic by training it – maybe along the top of a wall or fence or between the first and second floors of the house or on the roof of a pergola. Piles of pendulous evergreen leaves with quite large star-shaped fragrant white flowers in spring. The young growth is reddish and can be blackened by late frost but quickly recovers. An understandably popular climber. Vigorous too but perfectly easy to control – just give it a good haircut after flowering in early May. It sends out sort of tendrils that allow it to hang on to things – wire, for example.

Any old soil but particularly happy on chalk. Sun or shade. It’ll look a bit thinner in the shade and flower later but on the other hand, the leaves will be darker green and shinier in shade. This is true with most evergreens…

Propagated by us from cuttings. This is the best known form with pure white flowers (sometimes referred to as ‘Snowdrift’). We used to do a form called ‘Apple Blossom’ with a pink tinge to the flowers. We dropped it because it just seemed to cause confusion and most people wanted this one. We’ve always been rather proud of this plant because it doesn’t display a common leaf characteristic of Clematis armandii which is a slight but annoyingly noticeable distortion at the tip of the leaves. The leaves on our clone are perfect. The original plant we found very close to the original nursery in Nuthurst. It was (probably still is) growing on the front of a bungalow across the valley. We spotted it on the way to dig up bamboo in the garden at Sedgewick Park in 1988. One of those occasions when we had to introduce ourselves to the owners of various plants-we-wanted with : “You’ll probably think we’re completely mad but we’re starting a new nursery and wondered if we could have some cuttings off your fantastic xxxxxx….”. I suspect in this particular case, such overtures were unnecessary. Word had already reached the other side of the valley that something odd was happening in the middle of Nuthurst.

Named after David Armand, a French cleric (Père David) in the 19th century who collected plants throughout China.

N.B. When clipping several plants with the same tool, have a bucket containing a 5% bleach solution and swish your blades around for 30 seconds between plants to sterilise them. This will help avoid the chance of cross contamination of disease.

As with all woody plants, plant high, exposing as much of the taper at the base of the trunk as possible. Allowing soil to accumulate round the base of a tree can be fatal. Keep very well watered when first planted.

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