This is a beautiful clematis with a heavenly scent – vanilla by common consent or, as one of my gardening friends says, like the soap shelf at M&S! So why haven’t I chosen it before today? Because it’s usually flowering several metres up and sometimes I don’t even remember it’s there!
Ours is growing against the house wall facing west, and is almost inextricably twined into Xanthoceras sorbifolium. As luck would have it, a few weeks ago we decided to reduce the Xanthoceras by half (in order to be able to enjoy its flowers later on in the summer) but in the process and unavoidably, down came most of the clematis with it – just as it was about to flower!
In the event this whole affair was well timed because all the flower buds were far too high up to enjoy and by cutting most of it down, we were able to bring the stems into the house and have the benefit of the gorgeous scent each and every time we walked into the kitchen.
So, for clarity: Clematis armandii is in pruning group one which means it can be pruned immediately after flowering. However, if it’s very overgrown it can be cut back really hard and low down, but if you do this, don’t forget to give it a good feed, and water it well if it’s followed by a very dry period. Importantly, don’t repeat this every year, only when it gets completely out of control. If clematis are your thing then I highly recommend Christopher Lloyd’s book (aptly called ‘Clematis’) which is not only endlessly helpful but hugely entertaining.
In short, Clematis armandii is a large (6m), vigorous evergreen climber with glossy, leathery foliage whose juvenile shoots in spring are an appealing bronzy colour. It’s hardy but best sheltered from very cold winds, and the star shaped, ivory white flowers are a good size (up to 5cm).
Its lower legs are often bare so they need to be camouflaged – Caroline’s earlier suggestion of climbing nasturtiums sounds fun so I might try that this summer.
NB Louise has published a beautifully produced book of her plant profiles – A Plant for Each Week of the Year. It costs £9.99 and is for sale in our online shop here.
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