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I have a very vigorous winter flowering clematis "jingle bells". It was planted 3 years ago and is now covering a third of my pergola. Last winter (and it seems a repeat of the same problem this winter), hundreds of flower buds developed but all dropped off before opening. I have looked closely at the stems and the point where the buds formed but cannot spot any problems. Any ideas please.

Obelixx

Is the pergola exposed or sheltered?   Cirrhosa clems are from southern Europe so it may be dropping its flowers because it is too cold or windy.   They also don't like being waterlogged so if your site is wet or poorly drained that may be another cause.  

Dovefromabove

The only time I've had a similar bud/flower failure with clematis it was due to drought ... but that shouldn't be a problem in the UK at this time of year unless it's in a container of some sort ... 

The pergola is sheltered and south facing. It's planted in the ground in a 12 inch space between a summerhouse (next to the pergola) and the patio, it's never been waterlogged there.

Dovefromabove

It may not have been waterlogged, but I'll bet the soil down low where the roots are is dry ... a 12" space is not a large enough area to absorb rainfall for a climber of that size, especially in a sheltered position like that ... very similar to being planted in a container.

Sounds like a drought problem to me. 

Last edited: 13 December 2017 15:22:20

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Obelixx

Me too.  Their roots go down very deep and are fleshy so need moisture.   Try watering it regularly thru spring and summer and also give it feeds of tomato food in the growing season then make sure it gets an occasional drink thru autumn and winter.

Dovefromabove

A mulch is always good ... but it won't solve the problem ... the bigger your clematis gets the more water it will need ... is there any way you can expose a much larger surface area of soil which will help to absorb more water when you water and water it throughout the spring, summer and early autumn?

I guess I could lift a couple of the nearest slabs.

Many thanks for your advice. Do you think its too late to do anything about it now?

Obelixx

Better now than waiting.   Give it a good drink.   Lift the slabs as soon as possible and work some good compost into the soil below them and around the feet of the clematis, being careful not to damage the stems and then water it all again and by the gallon, not the litre!

You can then put a mulch of pebbles or chipped bark to cover the soil and yet allow water to penetrate when it does rain and when you give it a drink..

The latest on this is that I have lifted the slab next to the plant and removed all the sand, gravel and mortar. Replaced it with fresh soil and have given it a couple of good drinks with water/feed. No open flowers yet but  10 days with no flower bud drop is a definite improvement. Will update if anything else happens.

Happy Christmas.

Obelixx

Well done.  Hope you get some flowers open tomorrow or soon after.

Merry Xmas.

Yeeha, great news, the buds are just starting to open. Many thanks for your great advise. Happy new year to you all.

Obelixx

Post a picture when they open please.   Enjoy your success and have a good 2018.

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Dovefromabove

Looking forward to seeing the photos 

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