Sunday, March 21, 2010

Clematis Armandii Flowering Type

Clematis varieties are among some of the most prized twining climbers in the Bay Area. The diversity of foliage aside, there are 10 categories of flowers, everything from single and double forms to open and closed bell-shaped, even tubular and tulip-shaped.

Nearly all of these flowering types are deciduous. One notable exception is Clematis armandii, an evergreen, group one bloomer that offers a most persuasive set of credentials. Start with the uncharacteristic-for-a-clematis foliage, which features mostly trifoliate, large (to 6 inches), pointed, leathery leaves. Young leaves are a bronze color, then turn a shiny dark green as they mature. These handsome leaves form a verdant backdrop to the blooming show that arrives in early spring. And what a show indeed!

Once established, Clematis armandii blooms prolifically with intensely scented, saucer-shaped flowers that will knock your socks off. Blooming begins in early March and can continue into June. It makes you want to put a chair underneath the vine in spring, grab 10 books and say, "Call me when June arrives."

The most recognizable Clematis armandii is the white flowering species. These 2- to 3-inch-wide pure-white flowers really pop against the dark foliage, providing a timeless, elemental display. 'Snowdrift' is an excellent cultivar, its flowers said to smell like honey and almonds. Pink lovers should look for Clematis armandii 'Apple Blossom' (pictured), a lovely blush-pink flower, or 'Hendersonii Rubra,' with deep pinks backing white flowers.

Clematis armandii makes a great coverage vine as it will eventually reach 20 feet in height and spread to 10 feet. You can grow it up the side of a house (without worrying that it will destroy your stucco, unlike ivy), along a fence or over a strong arbor. Given its intoxicating scent, you'll want to keep it within reach of foot traffic. It's also popular with bees.

Did you know?
Clematis armandii is named in honor of a French missionary, Pere Armand David (1826-1900). In England, Ernest Wilson introduced the vine into cultivation in 1900. This species is native to China.