1) Pruning Clematis Jackmanii and 'Polish
2) Deciding to grow honeysuckle vine... or
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I planted five 'Polish spirit' clematis along my fence
last summer and I would like to know how to take care of them so
they will grow well. They are in full sun with their roots shaded
by Stella d'Oro daylilies. When, if ever, do I prune them and what
is the best kind of fertilizer to give them?
I also have two Jackmanii clematis so could I have the
same information on them? They're also in full sun and their roots
are shaded by roses bushes. - T. -
Clematis 'Polish Spirit' is a hybrid variety of C.
viticella, one of the clematis that blooms later than most of
the large-flowered hybrids. If it's a hybrid and purple, a Clematis
probably has some C. viticella in its lineage. For
instance, C. viticella is one of the parents of the
C. viticella can be pruned right to the ground every
spring before bud break. Cut the previous year's main canes to
leave just a few inches of each above ground. It will grow back
vigorously and bloom that year without diminishment.
As for other care, C. viticella doesn't need anything
except sun and water, and soil enriched with annual doses of
organic mulch and slow release fertilizer. (Fertilize in April and
October; for more see articles such as Overthrow
Concerns 559 or
What's Coming Up 8). You don't even have to prune
it, but it does bloom better
and more evenly along the whole length of the vine if it's
to have mostly new wood. It's resistant to clematis wilt,
the bane of the large flowered hybrids.
Jackmanii is a C. viticella hybrid that acts a bit more
like its other parents. So you can cut a Jackmanii to the ground in
spring but in doing that you will probably forfeit its first flush
of bloom, the one it puts on as a result of its other parents'
genes. So gardeners usually cut Jackmanii like the common large
flowered hybrids. Just shorten the vines that have already bloomed
and remove one or more of the oldest canes right to the base. This
keeps the proportion of young to old wood high and keeps the plant
blooming well, even low down. You can cut after the first bloom of
the year, in mid-to late June, or now while it's dormant. We opt to
do it now, before leaves are out when it's simpler to see what
Photos at right and above: If Clematis pruning
directions and exceptions make your head spin,
just ignore them and cut only for neatness and to stimulate new
wood. (Take a look at the detailed Clematis pruning photos in
Any loss of bloom is temporary and a healthy vine will grow back
vigorously from most any treatment.
For instance this Clematis viticella can be cut
to the ground each year and still bloom wonderfully. Last year we
did just that -- cut all its canes to the ground. This year a
thunderstorm rolled in just as we got to it so we quickly clipped
off the top third and high tailed it out of the garden. If we don't
get back to it, at least it won't begin growing mostly from its
spindliest tips, leaving the bottom bare.
My three year old honeysuckle vine is beautiful the
first couple of months of spring. As summer comes it gets a white
powdery mildew and leaves die, blooming gets less and less. How can
I prevent this? - P. -
Grow something besides honeysuckle -- it's just a dog for being
Move it to a place where the air moves more freely. Keep in mind
that sometimes means moving it into someone else's yard. Our yard,
for instance, our whole property has poor air
movement because it's at the bottom of a hill, on the east side of
that hill. The prevailing wind goes over us. Jack, six houses
uphill, can grow things we can't, mildew-free.
Apply a fungicide regularly, beginning when the leaves are about
half developed and nights start reaching 65 degrees.
There are prepared fungicides and there are recipes you can mix
yourself. Cornell University's published their work regarding
baking soda and soap (2T baking soda and 1t dish soap per gallon of
water; reapply after every rain; perhaps 80% as effective as
prepared fungicides) and the Rodale Institute reports success with
vegetable oils (including garlic oil, citrus-based products and
Neem oil) when these are used as preventives. Other options include
Wilt-pruf, compost tea, seaweed sprays and mixtures made from
crushed and steeped horsetail/scouring rush (Equisetum
arvense) -- each has shown some effectiveness in controlling
The two real tricks are 1) to begin early since these things
(store bought or homemade) are all preventives, not
remedies, and 2) to recognize your formula's ability to stick and
last so you can re-apply at appropriate intervals.
Originally published April 16, 2005
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