Hello fellow readers, One of my favorite vines is the Sweet Autumn Clematis in her glory this time of year. With a plethora of tiny white blooms from August through September, she looks like a snowdrift and smells heavenly. Once the flowers fade, a silvery blanket of seed heads follows, contrasting beautifully with the dark, almost blue-green leaves. Much to dear Curt’s dislike, I let this beauty scramble up the screened porch stairs and make its way onto the screens themselves. It’s true; you may have to tiptoe around to exit from the porch to the outside; a path rarely took not because of the sweetie. I love the fragrance brought in by the cooler evening breeze as I snag the last of the season’s porch campouts on the futon.
Sweet Autumn Clematis is a real softie
I often recommend Sweet Autumn Clematis to replace Wisteria or Trumpet Vines folks start out loving; until the strength of their woody vines destroys their deck or pergola. My favored climber is equally ambitious, growing twenty feet a season, but is a real softie. Her soft wooded nature won’t harm rails or screens for that matter. Plus, she blooms on new wood so you can easily manage her size without missing out on glorious blooms. Each year when dormant, I cut her down to about a foot above the ground. But if you have a pergola you are looking to cover, let her run. I’ve even let her scramble as a ground cover with great success. Like all clematis, she’s not deer resistant, listed as Occasionally Severely Damaged, though I haven’t had Bambi interfere unless the ambitious nature allows for nibbles to go unnoticed.
Sweet Autumn Clematis prefer sunny heads and cool feet
Hardy from zone 5 to 8 (some say 9), like other clematis Clematis terniflora, formerly known as C.maximonicziana, likes cool feet and sunny heads. That means cool roots and sunny foliage for those of you who don’t think of plants as having people-parts. I have one happy Sweet Autumn Clematis doing fine in afternoon shade. Mulch generously or shade roots with a companion plant such as a low growing hydrangea. Ruby Slippers Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia, is a favorite that comes to mind.
Others besides Curt are not fans of my sweetie, including our industry’s woody plant guru, Michael Dirr. As written in the Manual of Woody Plants, its “Probably the easiest clematis to grow as it seems to thrive with neglect.” Perfect! Then adds it’s “Extremely vigorous to the point of viciousness.” There, there, worrywarts. Maybe his Georgia garden location has something to do with it. Dirr did end with kudos saying the “soft fragrance is delightful, and I’ve allowed the plant to scramble over crape myrtles.” Delightfulness overcomes viciousness. Garden dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com
Episode 4 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast includes more about Sweet Autumn Clematis.
Check out the Podcast Page. We have lots to talk about!
Column updated 9/8/2020