Clematis do not need a lot of space. They associate well with other plants. Low-growing early-flowering perennials, such as creeping phloxes or rock cress, make perfect companion plants for clematis. They are already in flower, when clematis breaks into growth in spring. In summer they make a green carpeting ground cover around clematis, which helps to preserve moisture. Pergolas and trellises, planted with clematis, mask dying foliage of tulips and daffodils well, while looking unobtrusive during April and May, when these bulbs are in flower. Exuberant growth of clematis soon hides their unsightly dying leaves.
If you have a vast lawn, you should try pairing clematis with tall sturdy perennials, but vigorous deep-rooted plants are best avoided. Feeding roots of these plants and clematis will mingle to an extent, where transplanting will be impossible without damaging the roots.
A beautiful plant needs a beautiful backdrop, so do not plant clematis against a shabby and pealing wall. The clematis cultivars, flowering on previous year`s wood, are best planted on the south-, east- or west-facing walls. Clematis, which flower on current year`s growth, are best given southern exposure, so as to receive sufficient warmth and light. Plant clematis at least 30-60cm away from the wall, and 20 cm away from the wire fence. Clematis dislike excessive heat, which brick walls accumulate in summer. Capron or wire netting, metal or wooden trellises with 15 to 20 cm eye diameter – these all are feasible supports for clematis. The supports should be well-made and ornamental by themselves, since some clematis are slow-growing, and fill out only by late summer. Avoid using Capron or metal netting for clematis, which flowers on previous year`s growth, since it will be next to impossible to untangle its stems in autumn, in order to lay them down to be protected in winter.
In small or narrow gardens clematis can be used to divide various parts of the garden. They take much less space than trees or shrubs. An unsightly wire fence, surrounding the plot, can be disguised by growing a small-flowered species clematis over it. This arrangement would look best on a fence slightly more or less that 1.7 m (the eye level). The large-flowered clematis are best planted in open locations, grown over pergolas, benches or arbours.
Buds and flowers of clematis always turn towards the sun. A spectacular flowering carpet can be achieved by spreading a net some 15 to 20cm above the ground. Clematis can be planted to drape over an old watering well, a dry tree stump, or even an ordinary wooden stake. Young plants should be tied-in every 15 cm, and the foliage will hide the string in no time. Tree trunk can be wrapped in wire netting. A wooden log, 2-3 metres tall, can make a stunning feature when planted with 3-5 clematis of different colours. To enable clematis to climb freely, the stake should be wrapped in a mesh. The cultivars `Anastasia Anisimova` and `Sizaja Ptica` are non-clinging, so they need to be tied in.
Spectacular combinations can be created pairing blue hybrid `Jackmanii` with bicoloured `Nelly Moser`, dark purple `Gypsy Queen` with sky-blue `Ramona`, red `Ernest Marhham` with white `Joan d`Arc`. Combine clematis with similar pruning requirement for easier maintenance – come autumn, you will have a tough job untangling the stems, if one of the clematis needs to be cut down, while another one has to have its stems taken down for overwintering.
Spring is the best time to plant clematis. It should be planted with its crown deeper by 10-15 cm than it grew in the pot. These are low-maintenance plants, and can be grown anywhere, except in pure sand. But, when grown in poor soil, they will grow and flower poorly, and the individual flowers will be small. Dry sandy soils should be amended with manure, peat or compost, while heavy clay should be improved with a mixture of sharp sand and peat. Before planting, fill the hole with 2 buckets of the mixture, made of well-rotted manure, compost and garden soil, add 2-3 handfuls of chalk or bonemeal, and 200g of potassium-rich fertiliser. When planting on a damp spot, spread a 15 cm layer of crushed stone or clay crocs on the bottom of the hole to improve drainage.
Clematis prefer sunny locations, but they dislike when their roots bake in the sun. The soil around them should be mulched with peat, sawdust or planted with creeping early-flowering plants. The small-flowered compact marigolds make an excellent companion plant: not only they provide clematis with a cool rootrun, but they also prevent pests and diseases.
Fertilise clematis often, every 10 days, with a diluted liquid feed. Foliar feeding with a solution of complete mineral fertilizers has proved to be effective, and can be applied up to the moment when the flower buds appear. Feeding with nitrogen-based fertilizers should stop in August, but plants will still require fertilisers high in potassium. In late autumn apply 80-100 g of superphosphate and 2-3 cups of crushed wood coal to each clematis plant.
The stems of clematis, flowering on current year`s growth, should be cut down to 1-2 buds above the ground in late autumn or early spring. They do not need to be covered for the winter, and are susceptible to freeze only in the most severe winters.
Clematis, flowering on the previous year`s growth, should be shortened by a third. Dead and disease-ridden stems should be removed in summer. When stems of the clematis of this type are removed to the ground, they will only flower in late summer or autumn. Shortened stems should be laid on the ground. When earth freezes over, and average temperature drops to -5oC, clematis should be covered with conifer branches. Avoid covering plants too early, since this may cause plants to rot, or to burst into growth and die. If winter thaws are frequent, provide the clematis with a covering of ruberoid to prevent its roots from rotting.