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Garden Q&A: There is much to like about clematis

| Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Clematis tangutica or yellow clematis. Jessica Walliser

Q: I was given a beautiful arbor as a holiday gift, and I'd like to cover it with a clematis vine. Are there some varieties that grow faster than others? Do you have any favorites?

A: You are right to ask about the growth rate of clematis. So many of them are slow pokes, and if you want to cover your arbor quickly, choosing a slower growing variety isn't a great idea.

One selection that would be a good option for you is the sweet autumn clematis. It grows up to 10 feet in a single year, bears a multitude of small, creamy-white, fragrant flowers late in the season, and is very easy to grow and prune. For many years, sweet autumn clematis has been a personal favorite.

That being said, a few years ago I discovered another fast-growing selection that has since become my favorite — Clematis tangutica.

This beautiful yellow clematis is a real show stopper. It is a late-summer/fall bloomer with balloon-like yellow buds that explode into four-tepaled, 2- to 3-inch-wide yellow umbrellas with fuzzy, purple stamens. Then, when it is finished flowering, it has sweet, little fuzzball seed heads. The bees love the flowers, and it will grow anywhere that receives at least six hours of sun per day (though, like all clematis, C. tangutica prefers to have its feet in the shade).

On average, the vine will reach 15 to 20 feet tall in a single season and is easy to propagate from seeds and stem cuttings. There are many different cultivars of this lovely vine, each with its own merits. “Bill MacKenzie” reaches an easy 20 feet tall, while “Helios” is a shorter cultivar that tops out at 6 feet in height. “Golden Tiara” blooms a bit later than the rest, and “Golden Harvest” is easy to find in the nursery trade.

But no matter which cultivar you get your hands on, you won't be disappointed. This is a great plant, hardy from USDA zones 5 to 11, that deserves a treasured place in your garden.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to tribliving@tribweb.com or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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