Clematis 'Arabella'

by Adam Pasco

Reliable, trouble-free plants are what we're all after, and Clematis 'Arabella' certainly fits the bill.

Clematis 'Arabella'Reliable, trouble-free plants are what we're all after, and Clematis 'Arabella' certainly fits the bill. I planted mine at the base of another really reliable plant, the evergreen Teucrium fruticans, placing it on the shaded north side so its roots kept cool out of the sun. There it was left to its own devices, using the shrubby germander as a living plant support.

C. 'Arabella' really comes into its own through late June into July, when its six blue petals open around a bold central boss of white anthers, but it'll keep flowering right through summer. Each flower measures about 7cm across. Although not as large as the flowers of many summer-flowering hybrids, the succession of blooms makes C. 'Arabella' really worthwhile. Clearly the RHS thinks so too, as they've given it their Award of Garden Merit.

'Arabella' is a herbaceous clematis; it doesn't twist around objects like 'proper' climbing varieties, so it does need planting partners for support. That's one of the great things about clematis: you can fit them into tiny gaps to provide extra layers of colour to existing shrubs.

As I want 'Arabella' to continue developing into a robust plant, I do treat it to a monthly drench with liquid feed, but that's about it. All shoots can be trimmed down to about a foot from the ground during winter, and new shoots will start developing from late February to continue the cycle.

Many great clematis have been bred in this country by Raymond Evison, who own Guernsey Clematis, but 'Arabella' comes from another great breeder, Barry Fretwell, who used to run Peveril Clematis Nursery down in the West Country (I think he retired a few years back). I like to know the origins of the plant varieties I grow; the people at the nurseries who put so much skill and expertise into breeding the outstanding plants we enjoy in our gardens.

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Gardeners' World Web User 19/07/2008 at 10:50

I've tried five Clematis in my garden over the years and every one survived for only one year before keeling over with Clematis wilt. I'm not sure if it's the local soil but they're not successful for me, I even tried burying a large pot in the ground with a special mix in it but again it died in the second summer - so I've given up with Clematis, any advice would be happily received.

Gardeners' World Web User 22/07/2008 at 11:58

Marina, you must try growing any variety of Clematis viticella, as these are resistant to clematis wilt. I grow a fabulous variety called 'Pagoda' that has been in flower for weeks. The blooms are smaller than large-flowered summer hybrids, but what they lack in size they make up for in quantity.

Gardeners' World Web User 03/08/2008 at 11:59

As Arabella is an herbaceous clematis is it liable to wilt? and should it cut to the ground each year

Gardeners' World Web User 18/08/2008 at 19:34

I have this clematis that grows up through my Climber "Golden Showers". I cut it right back to the ground as soon as the flowers finish and each spring I have loads of new shoots which flower right up to the end of September.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/10/2008 at 20:10

Reply to Julie: I don't think impatiens downy mildew will spread to other non-related plants, like wallflowers. And no, there really isn't any soil treatment available to gardeners. Perhaps the weather will be different next summer and this disease will not be a problem, but the nurserymen I have spoken to are very worried about it. If your impatiens were affected this summer I would recommend avoiding growing them next year, but remember that New Guinea Impatiens are not affected.

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