Clematis are incredibly versatile. They can bring colour to almost every spot in the garden, be it a huge wall, an ugly shed, a large pot, a herbaceous border or even an ancient shrub or tree that would otherwise face the chop.
There's a huge variety to choose from, from non-climbing herbaceous clematis such as Clematis integrifolia and Clematis heracleifolia davidiana, which grow to around waist height and which are treated like any other border perennial. There are the giants like Clematis montana, which can be let loose to cover an old garden shed with rapidity, or scale the side of a house.
It's worth remembering that all clematis climb by means of prehensile (clinging) leaf stalks, which need something to twine round. Unlike ivy, which climbs using aerial roots that glue themselves to brickwork, or Virginia creeper, which uses sticky pads, clematis are incapable of scaling a smooth surface. If you want them to cover a wall or fence, you’ll need to provide a trellis or wires for them to cling to.
Choose carefully and you can enjoy clematis in flower for most of the year – from the birds-egg-spotted winter bells of Clematis cirrhosa balearica, through spring with Clematis montana and the fluffy-flowered Clematis macropetala, to the large-flowered spring and summer hybrids like Clematis jackmanii. Then, from summer into autumn, the pixie hats of Clematis viticella hybrids and the slashed trumpets of Clematis texensis.
More on growing clematis:
Clematis to cover a fence panel
Clematis ‘Romantika’ has wonderfully rich, deep-purple flowers with yellow centres, 15cm across. The petals are elegantly spaced on blooms that are produced in late summer. Group 3.
Height x Spread: 2.5m x 2m
Clematis to grow into a tree
Clematis montana is an extremely vigorous clematis. Spring flowering, the pink blooms of var. rubens are a particular treat. Group 1.
H x S: 7m x 3m
Clematis to scramble through a shrub
Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’ bears masses of fully double rosettes of flower in purple-crimson in late summer. Perfect for growing through Viburnum tomentosum to extend the season of interest. Group 3.
H x S: 4m x 1m
Clematis for shade
Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ has ‘pyjama-striped’, pink and pale-lavender flowers in May-June. The blooms fade less when not in full sun, so plant against a north-facing wall. Group 2.
H x S: 3m x 1m
Clematis for an obelisk
Clematis ‘Princess Diana’ is a wonderfully elegant clematis with starry trumpets of striking pink flowers from late summer to early autumn. Group 3.
H x S: 2.5m x 1m
Clematis for an arch or pergola
Clematis tangutica is a vigorous scrambler, bearing yellow, waxy bell-shaped flowers, carried on this vigorous scrambler in late summer are followed by silky seedheads that last well into winter. Group 3.
H x S: 4.5m x 3m
Clematis to cover a large wall
Clematis ‘Perle d’Azur’ is a vigorous climber with sky-blue flowers with a pale yellow centre. Group 3. Grow in full sun or partial shade.
H x S: 3m x 1m
Clematis for a pot
Clematis ‘Fujimusume’ is a ‘patio’ summer clematis, with beautiful blue flowers. Compact, it's easy to train over a small tripod of canes or willow hoops. Group 2.
H x S: 3m x 1m