As climbers, Clematis are unsurpassed in their long flowering presence, their rich diversity of flower shapes, their wide array of colors and tolerances in terms of exposure and climate. It is no wonder they are so popular! From tree huggers to container varieties, there is a Clematis for every garden and flowers for almost every month of the year!
Members of the Ranunculaceae family, Clematis include more than 300 species, hundreds of hybrids and are divided into ten main groups, each with consistent flower size, blooming season, pruning and garden use characteristics.
The Atragene group of clematis includes early and small-flowering clematis, which are extremely hardy, undemanding and among the easiest to grow. Most of them are woodland deciduous climbers which can thrive in cold, windy situations and make ideal plants for north and east walls. Most clematis in this group originate from Clematis alpina and Clematis macropetala, both found in mountainous regions across Europe (C. alpina) or northern China, eastern Siberia and eastern Mongolia (C. macropetala).
- These clematis produce an abundance of small, single or double, bell-shaped, nodding or down-facing flowers, some with interior ballet-skirts represented by their clustered staminodes. Macropetalas tend to look fuller and more double than alpinas as their staminodes are as long as their outer tepals. The alpinas have shorter staminodes and often look like single flowers with a neat central boss. Most come in blues and pinks.
- They bloom profusely from mid to late spring and occasionally in late summer. The flowers give way to very ornamental, fluffy, silky seedheads, which remain on the plant, adding further interest.
- Strong-growing, these clematis can reach up to 6-10 ft. (180-300 cm).
- These clematis require well-drained soils and are ideally suited to growing in sun or partial shade. Adding coarse grit into a large planting hole is a great way to avoid waterlogging during winter.
- These clematis are quite versatile. They can be trained over trellises, arbors, pergolas, arches or fences. They can grow through shrubs, climbing roses and into small trees. They are gentle plants and do not smother their supporters.
- Since they bloom on the previous season's wood, they belong to the pruning group 1. No regular pruning required. Just clean them up after flowering.