a less-common autumn clematis, c. tangutica

clematis tanguticaMANY OF US GROW OR HAVE GROWN SWEET AUTUMN CLEMATIS, C. terniflora (also sometimes labeled C. paniculata). Though sweet-smelling enough, it is anything but sweetly behaved, and it’s hardly the only choice among Clematis for fall interest.  Frankly some of the others, particularly the C. tangutica group that includes ones like the guy above, hold far greater interest for me both in flower now and also later, with their silvery, fluffy seedheads.

That’s not to say that C. tangutica cultivars aren’t beasts of a vine, too. As with C. terniflora, I cut these back hard in early spring, to less than a foot above the ground. They nevertheless produces a rampant amount of growth, to more than 10 feet tall, and around mid- to late August start to open up an increasing number of charming yellow bells: lemons with their peels unfurled in quarters. (If I didn’t hack it in spring, but simply clean out the dead stuff a little, it starts blooming for me in June.)

I know I’m being imprecise, but frankly I cannot tell several of the good tangutica cultivars apart. I think mine’s ‘Gravetye Variety,’ with deepest maroon anthers, and other good cultivars to look for include ‘Bill MacKenzie’ and ‘Golden Harvest.’

My tangutica type doesn’t cover itself in the sweet-scented froth of flowers of C. terniflora, a Japanese native that’s got a reputation as a terrible thug, or like its native American, far better-behaved near-lookalike C. virginiana, which grows wild at the woodland edges near here and throughout the Eastern part of the country.  The yellow-flowered C. tangutica types are more of a curiosity item, the kind of clematis you want to go up and inspect, each flower a real oddball. You know I love odd vines.

Though it started its show in summer, my purple ‘Polish Spirit’ clematis (below) is still at it, by the way. Yup; month after month, nonstop since late June.  And ‘Duchess of Albany’ is back in bloom, admittedly having rested quite a bit along the way. It’s almost like the Duchess woke up just in time to greet ‘Gravetye Variety,’ and perhaps compete for my affection before the two retire for another season.

clematis polish spirit in chamaecyparis

  1. joco says:

    So that’s what clematis petals look like.Can’t remember seeing one without holes.

    I call all the stubby yellow ones “Orange Peel”.

    BTW, that invasive C. v. ternuiflora, does it go all fuzzy after flowering, like the native Travellers’ Joy? In which case I will stay away from it.

  2. margaret says:

    Hello, Joco. Yes, the terniflora has seedheads to offer. Sounds as if there has been some nibbling going on over there…sorry.

    Welcome, PGL. Glad to share something different with you and hope you’ll come back soon looking for more.

  3. This house came with one of those rampant clematis planted in much too small a spot. And it wants to take over for yards around. I think I am going to give up and have it dug out. Your ‘Polish Spirit,’ or a similar kind sounds much more lovely for the spot.

  4. margaret says:

    Welcome, Cameron. Any clematis (or vines in general) can be combined as long as they have the same requirements (sun-wise etc.) AND the same pruning schedule. I hit both the tangutica type and ‘Polish Spirit’ really hard in early spring, so that makes them good potential partners. Give this combo LOTS of room. Both will grow, grow, grow.

  5. Cameron says:

    Okay, I MUST have one of those to grow over the gable garden gate in our catslide roof! Right now, there’s a Lady Banksia, but the blooms, while glorious are too short-lived. I just finished pruning the monster down to one main trunk, so perhaps that’s why I’d like something more worthy of my efforts! I love purple and yellow together. Do you grow these on the same trellis or fence?

  6. Jennifer Brock says:

    Read an article about you in the Washington Post this morning and came to your site. I only had a little time to look at it, but love what I’ve seen. I’ll be bookmarking it so that I can come back often.

  7. margaret says:

    Welcome, Jennifer. Adrian Higgins of The Post was so kind to come visit and do the story, which I just wrote about this morning. Thanks for your nice words. We look forward to seeing you again.

  8. Oh dear, Margaret! Too many of my comments start with “I used to grow this back in Illinois” – and here comes another one!

    I loved Clematis tangutica and even brought a starter plant with me to Austin in 1999, but it couldn’t take the heat at that house. My sister took another start, so when I go back to IL I can visit Tangutica, even if I can’t grow it!

    But I had to leave my wonderful ‘Polish Spirit’ at our IL house. I hope it still grows and looks as beautiful as the blooms in your photo.

    That’s a lovely photo of the ‘Polish Spirit’ – that color just makes me melt!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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