This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
VERY little has been done in American gardens with the Clematis for extensive ornamental purposes. It has been used either in our green houses, or trained over a few small stakes and arbors in our flower beds, but, by observing this illustration and also the frontispiece of our last No. (Oct.), it can be seen our English horticulturists are employing it on a grander scale, and with many picturesque effects. A writer in The Gardemr's Chronicle says:
"Those who have not seen the leading kinds in the full vigor of established growth, have a real pleasure in store, for whether we look upon them simply as hardy bedding plants capable of giving us sumptuous masses of matchless color for several months during the summer and autumn, or as plants suited by their habit of growth to cover masses of rock or root-work or any mural ruin with verdure and beauty, or whether we regard them in the more classic form of plants adapted for clothing the massive pyramid, or for wreathing the garden arcade or the basket with a chain of beauty - suspended over chasms or rustic banks by the sinewy arm of the hoary oak - we shall find them unsurpassable in splendor; so much so, that even the climbing rose must, for actual display, sink into the shade when compared with the glowing colors of the Clematis.
Nor is this all, for treated as pot plants, and trained upon suitable trellises for the decoration of the conservatory, the terrace, or the balcony, the Clematis promises to become one of the most useful plants in cultivation. Whether our great horticultural societies have yet seen their way to offering prizes for well grown collections of these plants, I know not; but if they have not, I hope another season will not pass without their doing so: for I feel certain that a well grown collection of these large free-flowering varieties of Clematis would form a splendid group for exhibition purposes.
The following account, written originally for the 'Florist and Pomologist,' may not be without interest, inasmuch as it describes some of the finest groups I have yet seen:
'In the garden of Mr. Essington, Ribbesford House, Bewdley, there are two magnificent and noteworthy beds, which, when I saw them in September last, were apparently in the height of blooming. It is difficult to imagine anything more strik-ingly beautiful than they were, or anything that could produce a more gorgeous effect. Being associated with the general arrangement of bedding plants, the superiority of the Clematis was very apparent, the purple bedders being altogether eclipsed by the masses of rich violet purple of C. Jackmanni, which is one of the best for bedding purposes. The beds were round, about fifteen feet in diameter, and well raised towards the center. In the center of one bed, which was planted in 1867, a few stakes about eight feet in height were placed, and these being well covered with the Clematis, formed a perfect floral pillar, which gave a good effect. The other bod, planted in November, 1868, was equally good. The plants were planted at about two feet apart, and were carefully trained. Some attention is necessary in regard to training, for if the shoots are allowed to become entangled, it is afterwards difficult to get them apart, so as to maintain the perfect proportions of the beds. At Ribbesford this had been scrupulously attended to.
The plants are annually cut down and the bods well manured. The soil they do best in is a light sandy loam, well manured, and liberally watered during the growing season, for on maintaining the plants in a growing condition, for the greatest length of time possible, depends in a great measure the continuity of bloom.
* The idea is entertained by many that the blooming season of these plants is not of sufficient duration to warrant their adoption for bedding purposes. In this doubt I frankly own to having been at one time a participator, having formed but a vague idea of their capabilities; but I have learned that by judicious treatment the season of flowering may be so prolonged as to do away with any objection on that point. To those who still doubt, I would say, give them a trial, and you will not be disappointed with the result,'
It is a noteworthy met, that the Clematis appears more at home in the open when trained over the ground, or festooning from pillar to pillar, as shown in the engravings, than when trained against a wall. When at Ribbesford, I noticed that the same varieties, when trained against a wall, were not nearly so fresh and lasting as those growing upon the open beds ; in fact, the former were a little seared in the leaf, as if the situation had been too hot and dry for them, while those upon the beds, I have reason to know, remained fresh and vigorous so late as the end of October. Thus these beds had been in fine condition for four months, and were really splendid for three months - and that, be it remembered, at the end of the season, when tender plants generally are getting shabby. So rich and glowing are some of the colors, that at a distance the beds might be mistaken for dense groups of Irises, so unusual are they in aspect.
One of the most useful purposes to which these Clematises could be put, would bo to drape a ruin, or to cover unsightly banks or slopes. They will grow almost any-where, if the roots of other plants do not rob them of their fair share of food, and nothing more is necessary than to throw in a few tree roots or rough branches for them to scramble over. While, however, it is evident that the Clematis will grow almost anywhere, let it not be inferred that they do not well repay the use of good soil. The most suitable for their cultivation appears to be a deep rich sandy loam; and therefore upon heavy soils it will be necessary to drain the beds, and to trench-in such a portion of vegetable matter as will bring the soil to a proper consistency. Good soaking of liquids, during the growing season, especially after the plants have been planted a year or two, will be found to be of great benefit.
As to pruning, when the plants are once established they may, for bedding purposes, be annually cut to the ground, in the manner of hops; but for festooning it will, of course, be desirable to retain the wood in its entirety so far as it is properly ripened, and hence in the winter-pruning, cut with that object. When growing in a wild natural manner, it will be wise to prune as little as possible.
The engravings, which it must be observed) are from photographs, and not drawings, show very plainly what the plant will do when judiciously treated according to the instructions conveyed in the preceding remarks. Among the best varieties for decorative purposes may be mentioned: - Clematis Jackmanni, C. Rubro-violacea, 0. Rubella, C. Prince of Wales, C. Lady Bovill, and C. Thomas Moore".