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

Farges' Clematis

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I'm lucky to be able to reach up to guide even one of the starry flowers of this clematis toward the camera.  It's a tree-climber, and the rest of the blooms are fifteen feet above me.  Clematis fargesii is an intrepid explorer of medium-sized trees—those whose canopies top out at twenty to thirty feet—and is happy to strew its host with twinkling flowers from June through September.  And who doesn't have a tree or three that couldn't use some additional interest in the Summer?

 

I've paired my clematis with an old star magnolia, which is exciting only in early Spring but boring green the rest of the season.  Not any more:  Those broad but boring leaves now sparkle. 

 

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The clematis is also gussying up the adjacent dogwood.

 

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The flowers are in loose sprays, and the vine's foliage is sparse to the point of invisibility.  In fact, you can't tell there's a vine there are all; it looks, miraculously, like the tree has, all of itself, decided to keep blooming throughout the Summer.

 

After four years of growth, C. fargesii is only "spangling" these host trees, not smothering them.  So far, so fabulous.

 

 

 

Here's how to grow this high-flying, long-flowering clematis:

 

Latin Name

Clematis fargesii 'Paul Farges'

Common Name

Farges' Clematis

Family

Ranunculaceae, the Buttercup family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous vine.

Hardiness

Zones 5 - 9.

Habit

Loose-limbed and wide-ranging, on the look-out for the next tree to climb.

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

Size is dependant on giving this vine enough "exercise."  If you provide a high enough tree to climb, it will climb all the higher.  It you lead some tendrils outward instead of upward, you can lead the vine over to another tree, too.  Individual stems probably don't get more than 25 feet long, but that means that, at least theoretically, you could train just one vine to cover a half circle fifty feet in diameter. 

Texture

Loose and light, not like some other vines, e.g., wisteria as well as Autumn clematis, that can smother the foliage canopy of any tree they climb into.

Grown for

the unusually large size of a mature vine, but with a "swagging, not smothering" habit, so that it can ornament any tree with style.

 

the medium-small starry white flowers, not in a huge show at any one time, but sporadically almost the entire season.  They give the host tree a twinkling perkiness that you only gradually understand to be actual flowers.  The flowers are twice as large as those of the nearest look-alike, Autumn clematis.  And they occur over a long season, not just in one last-hurrah display in September.

 

the ease of growth and reliability year-to-year.

Flowering season

Late Spring here in Rhode Island: mid-June, continuing through the Summer.

Culture

Easy!  Like almost every clematis, some shade at the roots, and with plenty of water and good soil.  The promise of full sun leads the vines eagerly up through the branches of its host tree, out through the top of the tree's foliage canopy.

How to handle it

This is a large clematis; you must provide it, even if only in one direction—straight up—the twenty feet and more of space it needs.  But even a small garden can welcome this plant as long as it has just one tree with branches that begin low enough to the ground—within ten feet, say—for the vine to grab onto. 

 

Plant the vine six, eight, ten, even twelve feet out from the trunk of the host tree, so its roots don't have to compete with the tree right at its trunk, and the young vine has more access to the sun (dappled at best, true) it will need to grow.  Provide a bamboo stake tall enough to lead the vine directly up into the tree's lowest branches.  Clematis "twine" by way of their leaf-stems, not the vine's main stems, and you might need to tie the young vine to the stake to get its ascent launched.

 

Even young vines can grow six to ten feet their second year (provided, of course, that they've got rich soil, don't lack for water, and get enough sun), which means that they should reach the tree's lower branches then, and can explore on their own thereafter.  By the third Summer, the stems may well have reached the top of the tree canopy, and will begin spangling the tree with the graceful flowers.   

 

Keep an eye out for occasional "explorer" stems, which launch themselves horizontally from the base of the clump in search of another tree to add to the vine's domain.  You can lead them where you want—perhaps to the other side of the tree to help speed up the spangling on that side.

 

Good host trees for the vine to twine up into—not too big at maturity, with wide-ranging and low-hanging branches, and that will benefit from a bit of floral excitement in the Summer—include magnolias and Japanese maples that are fifteen to twenty feet tall when you plant the clematis, and have the promise of getting even taller.  My Clematis fargesii is growing through a large star magnolia.

 

Another option is to grow Clematis fargesii entirely on the surface of densely-foliaged evergreen trees whose interior would be too shady for it to penetrate.  Large hollies, say, or even needle conifers like spruces, or fan-spray conifers like Hinoki cypresses and arborvitae.  All of these trees, but specially any conifers, will have very dry soil anywhere under their canopy, or even nearby.  So plant the clematis six feet outside the entire canopy, eight or ten if you have the room, and train the vines along the ground over to the tree.  They can climb up into it directly from the ground level.  This planting strategy presumes that the tree is planted in a large-enough bed (at least on the side where you plant the clematis) of mild-mannered perennials or smaller shrubs, through which you can lead the ground-level stems of the clematis over to the host tree.  Don't forget where the stems are.  They get ropy and even woody with age, and would trip you easily if you manoeuver through the bed forgetfully.

 

I supposed that you could control the size of this clematis by some serious  pruning—i.e., treat it as a Group 3 clematis, cutting it back to the lowest pair of leaf buds each Spring.  This would delay the flowering, control (somewhat) the overall expanse of the vine, and maybe also concentrate the flowering into a show that's more dramatic and less "twinkling."  But this is what we already have Autumn clematis for.  Better, then, to let this vine grow free-range.

Downsides

None.  Like all small-flowered clematis, C. fargesii is not susceptible to die-back.

Variants

This is a vine with many names—C. fargesii 'Paul Farges', C. potaninii var. potaninii, and C. fargesii souliei.  Far as I can tell, they're all the same.  Clematis themselves, like roses, are a whole world to explore.  No garden should be without them.

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

Layering and cuttings.

Native habitat

China

 
 
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