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

Clematis 'Rooguchi'

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Black stems, nodding indigo bells:  'Rooguchi' clematis is easy enough for beginners, cool enough for sophisticates. 

 

The flowers flare only partially even when fully formed. 

 

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Despite the icy-blue lip of the outer surface of the petals, the interior of the flower remains faithful to indigo.

 

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The long black petioles hold individual flowers well above the foliage. 

 

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The color of the buds is the deepest of all, and makes me wish for a 'Rooguchi II' whose flowers never open.

 

 

Here's how to grow this colorful non-vining vine:

Latin name

Clematis integrifolia 'Rooguchi'

Common name

Rooguchi clematis

Family

Ranunculaceae, the Buttercup family.

What kind of plant is it

Herbaceous perennial.

Hardiness

Zones 3 - 9.

Habit

Clumping, non-vining.  New stems emerge directly from the ground each Spring.  They sprawl or lean or, if supported, stay aloft gracefully.  See "How to handle it" for suggestions.

Rate of growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

If uncontrolled, a clump that grows to six to eight feet tall and three or four feet wide.  See "How to handle it" below for strategies for control, some of which also result in a clump of shorter height.

Texture

Medium. 

Grown for

its flowers: Pendulous near-black buds dangle at the tip of black, alert and erect, bishop's-crook stems.  They open to deep blue-purple bells, with a contrasting icy-white edge, but retaining their dark color inside.

 

its vigor:  'Rooguchi' establishes easily as long as (like all Clematis) it isn't stressed by drought.

 

its lengthy season of bloom:  I first thought of writing about 'Rooguchi' six weeks ago.  It's in as full bloom today as then. 

Flowering season

Late Spring through much of the Summer.

Color combinations

The foliage is the mid-green typical of Clematis, and is a neutral presence.  Combinations are driven, instead, by the flowers.  Their dark blue is at home with pink, purple, and burgundy.  Lime-green is the universal mixer, too.  'Rooguchi' will also partner with white as long as it has the same icy tinge (provided by an "underblush" of indigo) as the lip of the outer surface of the petals of 'Rooguchi'.  White that appears creamy because it is mixed with yellow will look dirty. 

 

These firm guidelines notwithstanding, I've planted my pair of 'Rooguchi' in my Red Garden.  While it's true that blue does go with red, I've also welcomed white into these beds, and blue now looks like I'm trying for a patriotic message.  This Fall, I'll complete the de-bluing of the Red Garden (started last Fall when I moved out the globe thistles) by transplanting both clumps of 'Rooguchi' into the Pink Borders.  'Gravetye Beauty'—same non-vining habit, but with flowers in scarlet—will take over their positions in the Red Garden: Planted underneath the canopy of a pair of Rosa moyesii 'Geranium'.  The clematis will race up through the wide branches of 'Geranium', amid which its Summer flowers will maintain color when the rose's Spring flowers are through, and its red flagon-shaped hips haven't yet developed.  

Partner plants

'Rooguchi' can associate with plants on the basis of its flower color, its non-vining (translation: Liable to sprawl) habit, and even its foliage color.  Ideally, the same plant could support 'Rooguchi', provide coloristic or textural contrast with its leaves, and still have energy left over to strike up harmony with its dark-blue flowers.  If by some happy quirk of fate, you have a very large purple-leaved Japanese maple with a mounding habit, all these fantasies can be granted.  Generic clematis foliage, such as that of 'Rooguchi', isn't usually much to get excited about—except when the maple's ferny, burgundy leaves are there to provide fluffy backdrop as well as filigreed foreground. 

 

Remember that 'Rooguchi' can become so large it would swamp any dwarf mounding Japanese maple, or even a large-scale cultivar that you needed to purchase as a smaller starter plant.  Japanese maples can be reliably established even when purchased full-size, so if the wind is at your sails, go for it.

 

Another Japanese maple to consider is the full-moon, Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum', whose foliage begins the season bright yellow.  It tones down during the Summer, but remains creditably not plain green right through Fall.  This is an upright maple, and very slow-growing.  If one of sufficient size is already on your property, or you can affored to buy a specimen (at dizzyingly high price, alas), you could allow just a couple of stems of 'Rooguchi' to swag through the sunny side of its lower branches.  The black stems of the flowers—let alone the indigo of the flowers themselves—would be in shivering contrast to the glowing gold of the maple leaves.

 

Large roses are traditional partners for clematis, because they often have a lot of unattractive bare canes, and their thorns are particularly easy for the clematis stems to climb—even ones, such as those of 'Rooguchi', that can't actually twine.  'New Dawn' would be particularly suitable.  Its pink flowers in late Spring or early Summer are in bloom at the same time those of 'Rooguchi' are just revving up for the beach weather of July into August.  And it's usually best when grown with just a few main trunks, to which all the yearly growth is cut back to stubs each Spring.  This spare structure makes it much easier to cut out all the dead clematis stems at the same time. 

 

Really big foliage is another winner.  If you have a bank covered in themassive chartreuse growth of 'Sum and Substance' hosta, you could plant 'Rooguchi' at the center, in a well-dug and yard-square spot so there's no competition from hosta roots, and let it surf outward atop the hostas.

Where to use it in your garden

'Rooguchi' is an ornament for your garden, a bangle to thread through large shrubs or even small trees.  Unless you're growing it up through an impressive tuteur—or at least a very large one—'Rooguchi' is not going to provide structural help when growing solo.  But because its flowering season lasts months instead of weeks, you might consider going with a large-scale tutuer, to transform 'Rooguchi' from cool swagging into a strong and elegant component of your garden's layout.  A pair flanking the entrance through a brick wall would be powerful.    

Culture

Full sun in moisture-retentive soil that is rich in organic matter.  As is typical for Clematis,'Rooguchi' responds well to encouraging and "well-stocked" sites.

How to handle it: The Basics

Plant in Spring or Fall, and take care to provide enough supplemental water to enable easy establishment.  Keep the roots cool, partly by keeping them shaded by growing amid a shallow-rooted groundcover or by mulching, and by ensuring that the roots never lack for easy moisture.

 

Clematis would never be classed with plants that require a bog-like habitat, but they do require plenty of water.  The perfect-garden's usual taunt of "moisture-retentive but well-drained" should be tilted heavily to moisture-retentive.  If you need to choose between more water and better drainage, go for the water.  Water deeply each week during the dog days of Summer, or during drought in any season. 

 

The stems of 'Rooguchi' become unusually long—six to eight feet—for a non-vining Clematis.  The stems of most of the other non-viners are one to four feet tall.  'Mrs. Robert Brydon' is a big (in all senses) exception, sprawling outward six feet and farther.  But The Mrs. makes a terrific groundcover, whereas 'Rooguchi' would just look floppy if forced to scramble directly on the ground.  The challenge, then, is to give 'Rooguchi' the upward lift it needs, but can't provide for itself.  Even the tallest peony hoop wouldn't be high enough; after piercing its grid, 'Rooguchi' stems would flop outward and downward four feet and more.  

 

Large and open-growing shrubs, such as bush roses (like my 'Geranium', above) can be ideal provided they're large enough that 'Rooguchi' won't cover them entirely.  But that's a lot of rose: If the bush is six feet tall, which it had better be if 'Rooguchi' isn't to reach the top and then flounce around sarcastically, it will easily be eight feet wide or wider.

 

After frost has killed that season's stems to the ground, cut them off flush with the ground.  New growth emerges the following Spring, from below ground, and it's usually easier to have the previous season's stems out of the way beforehand.  The exception is if you're growing your 'Rooguchi' up through a shrub or tree that is, itself, severely pruned in the Spring—such as 'New Dawn' rose. 

 

If you do grow 'Rooguchi' through a plant partner that doesn't, itself, also receive Spring pruning, you'll need to extract the spent 'Rooguchi' stems from the partner's supporting branches.  Fortunately, 'Rooguchi' doesn't twine, so if you cut all the stems off at ground level, you can usually yank the entire hank of stems out of the partner plant in one firm-but-gentle tug.

How to handle it: Another option—or two?

Instead of letting 'Rooguchi' explore nearby woody partners on its own, think of it as an extremely pretty tomato, and give it the same forthright structural assistance.  If you're more into "pretty" than I am, grow 'Rooguchi' up through a tuteur.  But beware: Just because the tuteur comes to a graceful point doesn't mean that 'Rooguchi' will have any interest in doing the same.  If anything, it can get wider and wider the taller it grows. 

 

Either select a truly massive tuteur—ten feet tall, say—so that its narrow spire is always safely above the 'Rooguchi' stems, or do what I'm going to do next Spring: Use Texas Tomato Towers, which are heavy galvanized cylindrical frames six feet tall and eighteen inches wide.  Will the stems of 'Rooguchi' be strong enough to support themselves all the way up the inside?  Will I need to tie them to the frame?  Rest two-foot pea-stakes across the Tower's rungs, for some support on the way up?  For a plant with such a long season of bloom, the show will be worth (I hope) all the effort.

Any (other) quirks or special cases?

None.

Downsides

The whole clump can flop like a failed Leaning Tower of Pisa if it doesn't receive pro-active support; staking after-the-fact always looks awkward.

 

Like nearly all Clematis,'Rooguchi' is not interested in sites where the soil can become dry; growth in less-than-moist circumstances can be greatly lessened.

Variants

There are many other herbaceous species of Clematis, some of such subtlety that only clematophiles will be drawn to them.  The vigor and blue flowers of various cultivars of C. integrifolia, C. heracleifolia, and C. tubulosa, such as 'Durandii' and 'Mrs. Robert Brydon', are enthusiastic enough to entrance even garden neophytes.

 

Availability

On-line.

Propagation

By division.

Native habitat

Clematis integrifolia 'Rooguchi' is a hybrid of C. integrifolia, native to Europe and Asia, and C. x durandii, itself a hybrid of C. integrifolia and C. x jackmanii, which, in turn, is a hybrid of C. lanuginosa, native to China, and C. integrifolia 'Hendersonii'.  'Rooguchi' was hybridized in Japan. 

 
 
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