I love Clematis and when I discovered that there were native Clemmies I had to have one or two or more. So far I've planted three in my garden: Clematis virginiana, C pitcheri and C viorna. I wasn't surprised to find out that like other Clematis they can be placed in groups that determine how and when to prune. Clematis viorna is our star and it fits in group 3, which means it blooms on new growth and you need to give it a hard pruning in late winter. Be sure you've harvested seeds or enjoyed their frothy fall look before pruning.
But, I digress, let's start with getting you acquainted with this delightful herbacious vine native to rich wooded banks and thickets throughout the north, central and eastern United States.
Clematis viorna has many common names, but the one I am most familiar with is Leatherleaf. It's a delicate looking vine given to irregular branching that will scramble across the woodland floor looking for someplace to climb. Expect it to reach ten to twelve feet in your garden when given a sturdy structure. "The scattered 1 inch flowers are mostly solitary at a branch tip or a leaf axil. Each is purple-rose in color, the usually 4 sepals (no petals) being very thick and fleshy (leathery) with the shape of the flower being a "closed-looking" vase or urn with slightly turned up sepal tips, usually facing downward." The tips are creamy white. (source)
|Photo by Fritz Flohr Reynolds|
One of the many characteristics that I love about Leatherleaf is its long bloom time. The first bloom at Clay and Limestone was May 26 and it still has buds today. That's three months of charming flowers, cool buds and delicate twining stems.
|last week in July 2022|
It climbs by twining petioles/leaf stalks, so give it a structure or even a shrub to climb on that will accommodate its mature growth. The
flowers attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies and then
mature to become beautiful, dramatic seed heads for birds to enjoy. The
achenes with their feathery tails extend the attractiveness of the vine
into the fall, so hard prune it once the seeds have been collected, eaten or
wind dispersed. (source)
|Seeds starting to feather fluff up which helps the wind disperse them|
It's happily growing in a large container in morning sun where I can see it every day and keep it well watered. It likes moist, rich soil that is well-drained. Clematis viorna is a classic woodland plant and would have gotten lost in my habitat of rough and tumble wildflowers which I manage by letting them go to battle for garden dominance. Also, it needs to be watered regularly in what has turned out to be a brutal summer of drought and heat.
I plan to collect and sow seeds, eventually planting them among the smooth Hydrangeas and Hamamelis vernalis. I think it will look smashing scrambling along the ground and eventually climbing into the shrub's branches. Planted in that bed assures that this delicate Clemmie will get the filtered sunlight and moist soil that makes it happy.
I sure hope you give this sweet Clematis a try. It's worth the hassle of trying to locate one online! Nashvillians try GroWild. While you are looking try a few other native Clemmies. Thanks for stopping by.
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.