Do you know how to prune a clematis?
Oh dear, this question leads some of us to despair. For a start the label is either lost or illegible due to age and the plant looks as dead as a doornail anyway!
Books don’t help either, because as soon as you read the text you have to know which group your plant belongs to.
In fact most of us didn’t even know they had groups.
Okay, is there an easy way of guaranteeing they won’t be executed?
Yes, if there’s any doubt in your mind, prune all of them as soon as they finish flowering by simply cutting out all the strands with dead flowers.
Gardeners who adore clematis will know that some types are better pruned in early spring, round about mid-March.
This includes all of those with large flowers, such as Nelly Moser, Barbara Jackman, Clematis Jackmanii and Bees Jubilee.
I mention these because they are best-sellers.
These need to have every stem cut right down leaving only four inches of wood on the stems.
The soil is then forked over and four ounces of Vitax Q4 fertiliser is pricked into the soil over an area of a square metre.
A 12-inch long piece of rainwater pipe is placed over the remaining stems, then push the bottom inch into the soil to help prevent clematis wilt.
New shoots will rapidly emerge, growing right up into the sunshine and flowers will cascade from the green branches.
Compare this with those people who cut the stems back to where they see live buds and then have to gaze on to a mass of dead bushy stems at the base of the plant.
What about Clematis montana? When should this be pruned?
The answer is as soon as it finishes flowering in late spring.
Simply cut out all the cascading stems which have dead flowers. And what about the evergreen ones? Prune all of these as soon as they finish flowering by removing all the cascading stems.
If you’re thinking ‘I have one with tiny flowers in July’ or ‘mine has yellow flowers in late summer and my next door neighbour has blooms on hers that look like orange peel’, here’s your answer.
Prune the plant as soon as it finishes flowering, remove all the side shoots with dead flowers and leave the main stem.
Here’s my best tip of all.
Clematis adore plenty of water and a gallon of diluted liquid fertiliser once a month from April until August, then stop.