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Cornucopia - Clematis from seed

Clematis from seed
Maggie Duguid

For more years than I care to admit to, I have been collecting specific groups of plants (as you do), including Geranium, Celmisia, Crocosmia, Erodium, Daphne, Pittosporum and Kniphofia.

A few years ago I decided that my new ‘serious’ interest... would be Clematis and as I have a very windy garden I would stick to the viticellas and the species type.

Rather than just buying new plants, I would grow them from seed, especially the species group, so that when they flowered I would get a surprise - how sad. I joined the British Clematis Society and ordered seed from their seed list. Sowing clematis from seed takes patience - lots of patience, but last year, after reading an article about germinating clematis in bags of vermiculite, I just had to give it a go.

Basically, you place your seed (minus its tail) in an easy-seal plastic bag, well labelled, and containing a handful of vermiculite and a very small amount of water, say one tablespoon. Needless to say, I prepared about 12 bags containing different clematis seed and stored them in a small shoebox and placed the shoebox on a shelf, which I checked weekly for germination. The results were quite pleasing, in that the smaller seed germinated within a few weeks and was then carefully potted up. Some of the larger seed took a few months and the seed that seemed to be taking too long I transferred to plant pots and put them outside to germinate in their own time. It was easy enough to move the germinated seeds to a traditional plant pot and sit back and watch them develop.

The resulting seedlings have been wonderful. Ones worthy of special mention being:-

  • Clematis fusca: described as smallish, pitcher like flowers, usually hairy and brown to purple in colour, not the description to get you inspired to grow it, and yet this little clematis, only about 4 foot tall so far, is lovely, very compact, perfectly shaped pitcher flowers, and mine are a deep purple colour.
  • Clematis viorna: gorgeous pitcher shaped flowers, flared at the bottom, lovely colours of purple and pink, with cream inside - so delicate.
  • Clematis crispa hybrids: beautiful frilly edged pitcher shaped plants in pastel colours.
  • Clematis versicolor: the name just does not do this plant justice - my favourite. Tight pitcher shaped flowers, mine are lavender (but they do vary in colour) with a pale yellow upturned edge. Quite a plump pitcher 'flower compared to C. crispa, but what a beauty. Only about 6 foot tall. I thought that the flowers were beautiful, then the seed heads developed and they are golden in colour - quite the most beautiful clematis seed heads I have ever seen.

I had also ordered some ‘Large flowering USA mixture’. I think all the seeds germinated and are potted up, just waiting to see what I have. One of the plants I kept in the greenhouse has flowered and it looks to me like a smaller flowered version of 'Perle d‘Azur', but it is early days yet, only two flowers, both gorgeous – can’t wait to see what it does next season.

Get yourself some unusual clematis seed and give it a try. What a reward for very little effort, and the excitement of waiting for them to flower!!

First published in the North East Group Newsletter, January 2011
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 29.
© Copyright for this article: Maggie Duguid

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2012. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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