Clematis – an early spring surprise

It may be mid-March by now, but temperature-wise it still feels like frosty February. While some of the usual early flowering plants can be spotted: cyclamen, hellebores, snow drops and the first daffodils – not much else is flowering yet.

To my surprise, also some clematis are already in flower. Excuse my ignorance, but I have (so far) associated clematis with late summer showy sheets of flowers. But there really are clematis varieties for every months of the year.

Peeking over the garden fence is our neighbour’s clematis, a Clematis cirrhosa Wisley Cream with cream-coloured noddy flower bells (which btw caused quite a challenge taking a sharp picture of).

Clematis cirrhosa (courtesy of our neighbour)
Clematis cirrhosa (courtesy of our neighbour)

It may well be that this clematis is in fact neither a Wisley Cream variety nor a cirrhosa in the first place. I shall find out more. But whatever Clematis it is, it has climbed up onto a 2 meter high tree and produced a considerate “pile” of twigs and flowers on top of it.

Clematis cirrhosa tower
Clematis cirrhosa tower

These little clematis bells are pretty, even more so in spring, but there are by far more showy and beautiful varieties. This clematis lover’s blog will introduce you to some truly spectacular varieties.

In terms of its climbing mechanism the clematis belongs to the lianas. Lianas are woody climbers that have special climbing organs called tendrils. Tendrils can be derived from modified shoots, leaves, or auxiliary branches and twine around whatever structure they touch for support and attachment.

Tendrils can be found in many plant families and are not a taxonomic characteristic. Apart from clematis (Ranunculaceae), also peas, passion flowers, wine and pitcher plants have tendrils.

By the way, one of the earliest and most comprehensive studies of tendrils was published by Charles Darwin in 1865. His monograph “On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants” can be read online and downloaded for free within the context of the Project Gutenberg.

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