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

Good Together: Mandarin Honeysuckle & Romantika Clematis

Spring into early summer is the year's first season of unstoppable garden color; fall foliage is the second, usually by mid-October here. In between are the months of the year's hottest and driest weather, which make exuberant garden displays possible only by dint of creativity, wisdom, and industry.


But from now through early July, the living is still easy. Even extravagant moments, such as this tapestry of Mandarin honeysuckle and Romantika clematis, are a snap.


Clematis Romanika Lonicera x Mandarin equal overall 061417 640


At first glance, this pairing is levitating. The spidery trumpet flowers of Lonicera x 'Mandarin' are in shades of orange and pink, and are borne in large horizontal clusters that "blare" outward like the forward-facing rank of the trumpet stop of a pipe organ.


Clematis Romantika fronting Lonicera x Mandarin 061417 640


The contrast with flowers of Clematis 'Romantika' is comprehensive. Take a look at the pair of pictures below:


Clematis Romantika blossom interior with hand 061417 640 


The Romantika flowers are comparatively huge, appear as singletons not clusters, and are each a disk of six identical petals not a trumpet that ends in a "face" of upper and lower petals. Then, there's the deep color of Romantika flowers, a velvety grape-black.


Lonicera x Mandarin fronting Clematis Romantika 061417 cropped 640


If contrast were all, this pairing would be the cat's meow. But here are four other attributes that might typify a great plant pairing: harmony, repetition, detail, and complexity. They are in stark contrast to contrast.


Can a pairing be great by going for broke with just one of these five attributes? (Contrast, say.) Are some better for such all-or-nothing solos than others? Could one combination celebrate all five at once? Are some attributes, simply, better than others? Or at least more important? Are some better at making introductions, while others are better at the conversation that follows?


Seen from this wider vantage, the pairing of Mandarin and Romanika isn't as successful. It's strong on contrast, for sure, but what about the other attributes? There is a single note of repetition, and it's tiny: the pale green of both flowers' pollen. You need to look closely to discern that the anthers of one are the same color as those of the other. I can't see instances of harmony at all, by which I mean that one detail of one partner goes easily with one of another. Yes, in some light—look again at the picture above, in which my fingers are positioning one of the Romanika flowers—the deep violet in the petals is revealed. But on their own, the flowers usually read as near-black. That's a stunning hue, but without the violet there isn't even a hope of harmony with the soft pink of the honeysuckle's trumpets.


If these flowers had additional details that would enable multiple instances of contrast, harmony, or repetition, then there could be complexity. Alas, there aren't, so there isn't.


This partnership of Mandarin honeysuckle and Romantika clematis, then, is almost solely about contrast. One attribute out of five? That's only an introduction to the excitements of colorful pairings. True, contrast is great for introductions. This pair of flowers contrasts so boisterously that the greeting carries clear across the garden: The overall brightness and profusion of the honeysuckle flowers gives the dark clematis flowers the brilliant background they need to show even from a distance. If the clematis were growing as a soloist, its flowers might then be only dimly visible amid the shadows of the foliage.


That an introduction is so vigorous is valuable in itself, of course. To me, the worst coloristic sin of a garden is not to be engaging enough—of not even being noticed, let alone worthy of notice. Do what you must, but extend your hand, put on your broadest smile, and say "hi" to the world. This honeysuckle/clematis pairing certainly does that.


For another combination of plants that not only makes as strong an introduction, but then engages you for a lengthy visit, see the next post.



Here's how to grow Lonicera x 'Mandarin', as well as a look at its sensational young foliage, which is deep burgundy.


Here's another look at Clematis 'Romantika', plus a link to Clematis integrifolia 'Rooguchi', whose culture, handling, and hardiness are similar.


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