Speaker: Marcus Dancer
23rd February

Marcus told us he had been in horticulture since he left school and had had his own nursery in Sandleheath near Fordingbridge for the last 20 years specialising in Clematis. He grew 160 different types, some of them not common and all available by mail order as the nursery was not open to the public. He had brought along a fine selection of samples for sale. He also took his plants to Farmers Markets and Plant Sales. Click here for his website Marcus Dancer Plants which is a good source of information and contains a plant list.

Clematis tangutica Lambton Park

Clematis tangutica Lambton Park

Although he had no slides he had beautiful close up photos of these colourful flowers which he identified and handed round. His talk covered clematis for shade, scent, sun, spring, summer, autumn, winter and evergreen varieties and also the three pruning groups.

Marcus told us first about the Evergreen Group which flowers either in Spring or Autumn/Winter. Some favourites of his are:

“Early Sensation” which has masses of pure white flowers and is hardy, having very small leaves and flowers in the Spring. It grows up to 10ft tall and is tolerant of either sun or semi shade. The main things to remember are not to plant too deeply and only in well-drained soil.

If the soil is waterlogged, grow in a container with John Innes No. 3 and add grit or 2/3 soil and 1/3 compost. Feed and water well especially in dry spells. Re-pot after 4/5 years in the dormant season Nov/Dec.

Scented armandii “Apple Blossom” which has pinkish-white flowers in the early spring but can repeat in the Autumn. It grows very tall and can be very long lived.

urophylla “Winter Beauty” has creamy white bells and flowers in the Winter.

cirrhosa includes the cultivars “Freckles”, “Jingle Bells” (white flowers) and “Landsdown Gem”

Freckles has creamy white flowers in Winter heavily speckled inside with reddish-brown freckles and glossy dark green leaves. These cultivars can scramble over fences or trees and can be used for ground cover.

Montana are very vigorous and can be scented, they don’t like heavy waterlogged soils, dig in plenty of grit and plant 2/3” deeper than other varieties. If “clematis wilt” develops, cut the plant right back to the ground and use a systemic fungicide or two to help each other.

Cultivar “Sunrise” is a double pink flowering variety, is scented and has brilliant foliage. Is perhaps less vigorous than other cultivars and flowers in late Spring.

“Fragrant Spring” flowers in late Spring and bears masses of single deep pink fragrant flowers on bronze tinted deciduous foliage.

Landsdown Gem

Landsdown Gem

Large flowered varieties include “Nelly Moser” (pink with a darker stripe) and Josephine (fully double lilac/pink)

Viticella Group – these have one crop of flowers over a long period and have small flowers and scramble everywhere. They should be planted 2/3” below the soil and do not suffer from wilt. They tolerate a wide range of soils and grow up to 8’. Examples are:  “Prince Charles” (big lilac flowers); “Etoile Violetta” (violet flowers, vigorous and free flowering); “Romantika” (deep purple with yellow stamens); “Betty Corning” (pendulous slightly scented lavender flowers and likes the sun).

Texensis Group of hybrids include “Princess Diana” (rose/mauve with tulip shaped flowers); “Etoille Rose” (pink nodding bells); “Duchess of Albany” (red/pink bells).

Tangutica are “Old Man’s Beard” types with interesting seed heads and prefer the sun, examples are “Treasure Trove” (purple/yellow bells with purple stamens); “Golden Tiara” (vigorous, late flowering with golden/yellow bells); ”Anita” (Small white flowers, late flowering vigorous and hardy).

A tip from Marcus; on heavy soils, construct a free draining raised root area by making a raised area 1ft square filled with light, clay free soil.

Herbaceous Clematis, these can be grown in sunny borders and trained through shrubs or supported by twigs or can be grown in containers. Examples are: “Casandra” (blue, hyacinth shaped scented flowers, summer bloomer); “Miranda” (dark blue/purple 4” flowers with red stamens, blooms Spring to Summer); “Heather Herschell” (scented pink bells, Summer bloomer). Integrifolia is a weak a stemmed variety and needs support. Example is “Hakuree” (from Japan the name means mountain top, flowers are white, jasmine scented and early flowers have a lavender tinge).

Macropetala/Alpina, are very hardy and can withstand minus 40oC. They can’t abide heavy soils or deep planting and flower in Spring and repeat in Summer. Macropetala is so-called because it has many petals; it is double or semi-double, and so the flowers look larger and more substantial than those of alpina, which also flowers in spring. The pendulous flowers of “Blue Bird” are true blue and are followed by long-lasting seed heads.

Pruning Groups

Montanas/Evergreens/Alpinas/Macropetelas, technically don’t need pruning. But prune after flowering if desired.

Large flowered hybrids, prune in Jan/Feb when the brown buds are turning green. Trace down the shoot about half way and cut on old wood for the first set of flowers. Prune lightly on new wood for a second flush of flowers.

All other groups, viticella etc, when shoots appear in Spring, prune at 18”/12” above ground level for more shoots. But don’t prune if height is wanted. Herbaceous varieties should be pruned hard back to 4” above ground level when they are 3 ft tall.

To finish his very informative and well illustrated “tour de force” of a talk, Marcus advised us to look for slugs in Jan/Feb/March and feed, manure and compost around the outside of plant stems for an excellent show of flowers.

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