The Armandii Group includes the most reliable evergreen clematis that are suitable for the climate of the maritime Pacific Northwest. Clematis armandii ‘Snowdrift’ is a garden favorite in the Portland area. Because of its immense size, often more than 25 feet in length, it is used to cover fences and hide unsightly views. Late freezes occasionally damage the buds and burn the narrow, glossy leaves, but for the most part this vine creates the type of dense screen that is so desired by contemporary gardeners. When it comes into bloom in late February and early March, it is spectacular and very fragrant. C. ‘Apple Blossom’ is a cross that has pink buds and rounded leaves. It is not exceptionally fragrant.
These are evergreen vines and should be cut back judiciously to keep them under control after they have finished blooming in the spring. Because these plants have fine roots, be sure to plant the vine at the level you find it in its pot.
The first clematis we grew in this group were labeled as cultivars of C. alpina and C. macropetala. C. alpina once was used to denote flowers that were single while C. macropetala was used for double flowers. Because there are many other species potentially involved in the development of these cultivars, these terms are now best reserved only for the species names.
In general these are woodland plants mainly from colder climates. They have characteristic bell-shaped flowers that are nodding or down-facing. Single flowers have four sepals and a central arrangement of stamens and pistils. Occasionally they have additional staminodes but their sexual parts are clearly visible. Double flowers are commonly described as looking like “ballet-skirts”, a phrase that aptly describes the appearance of the clustered staminodes that make up the interior of the flower. The sexual parts are hidden in these
Because these are woody climbers that bloom on the previous year’s wood, a light prune after bloom is generally all that is required. This often promotes new growth and repeat blooms. We have found at the nursery that after many years of growth our atragenes become very dense and weighty and we need to cut them back fairly hard to refresh them. We do this after the spring bloom. We have never lost one by doing this. We always cut above a point where we see active growth. For example, we cut Clematis ‘Willy’ back hard once every three years. It still rewards us with masses of spring bloom.
A word of caution about planting clematis in this group. Their roots are very fine and fibrous and not fleshy like their large-flowered counterparts. Do not bury these roots deeply. Plant them at the same level you find them in their pots. Improving the drainage of heavy clay soils can help. We find that they like good drainage. We also tend to plant them in part shade situations where they are protected from the hottest sun. These plants do not do well in warm climates.
One of our favorite recent plantings is C. chiisanensis ‘Lemon Bells’ which we grow in a large Japanese maple. The lovely yellow flowers of the clematis contrast nicely with the hints of red and pink in the June maple leaves. In the autumn, the silvery seedheads glow in the interior of the tree. This combination grows in a woodland setting.
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