Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

The Best Season Ever: Dark-flowered Clematis

The search for the darkest clematis flower is potholed with irony. There are so many species of clematis, with such showy flowers in so many colors. Plus, they can be interbred easily, and they mutate to new forms spontaneously. But my vote for darkest-to-date clematis has white flowers; its depth of hue is, instead, derived from its foliage. But even though the new leaves of Clematis recta 'Midnight Masquerade' are gloriously wine-purple, their deepness of color wouldn't elicit more than a haughty sniff from Black Swan beech, Black Coral taro, or black-leaved catalpa.


Of those clematis whose flowers are at least as dark as grape jelly, Romantika is still the best. The irony of this "darkest-ever" clematis is that, well, it's not very dark. Any darkness at all in clematis flowers is more a cause for gratitude—at least they aren't just violet!—than a celebration of finding even a distant relative of true black. (The situation is the same for so-called "purple" wisteria: At least the flowers aren't lavender.) There's certainly no clematis (or wisteria) cultivar so supremely dark it would deserve the name Obsidian or New Moon.




And, yes, while we're grateful for the wine-red flowers of some of the hybrids of Clematis viticella, they are small fry compared to the six- or even eight-inch flowers of the so-called "dinner plate" Clematis forms. In direct light, in certain photos, flowers of C. viticella 'Black Prince' seem the darkest yet. But when lighted from behind, their bright burgundy undertones take over. Possibly photos that show Black Prince flowers as midnight purple are triumphs of careful lighting, or even PhotoShopping. Other photos show Black Prince flowers as not much darker violet than those of Polish Spirit. I look forward to growing it, to seeing (and photographing) for myself.


The avant garde of clematis breeding seems to be in Eastern Europe. Polish Spirit is one of many cultivars from that country, and a classic "OK, it's just purple but it's really reliable" clematis. Many other and newer hybrids from Polish breeders are entering western horticulture. Romantika is the cultivar that best combines larger flowers with darkest-to-date color; it is a hybrid from Estonia. Now it's time for another pothole in the road to that Obsidian ultimate: Romantika was hybridized over thirty years ago. With clematis, be grateful for any progress toward complete darkness, not depressed by the lack of more of it.  


Flowers of Romantika are single. Depending on the lighting and your camera, their sextets of sepals can appear as anything from violet to midnight purple. Part of the confusion is caused by the flowers' tendency to be darkest their first day; the flower in my photos was shot after it had faded to deep violet. Whatever the sepal color, the greenish-white stamens are particularly showy.  


Here's how to grow Clematis integrifolia 'Rooguchi'. Like 'Romantika', this clematis is in Group C, meaning that it is usually best when its stems are cut back to their next-to-lowest leaf buds in early Spring. Flowers are formed at the tips of that season's new growth, and the Spring cut-back helps produce a greater-than-otherwise number of new stems while also shortening the overall height of the plant and, thereby, keeping those flowers within easier viewing range.

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