Sarah's favourite clematis varieties for July

In this video, Sarah shares her favourite clematis and discusses which varieties are best for picking 

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I remember once, writing an article about finding a clematis to flower for every single month of the year. And that for me, is the marvellous, miraculous thing about the clematis family, is that there generally are different varieties that will flower from January until December. Not one all the way through but if you have a succession, you really can do that. But I’m standing here in July and the other thing that’s remarkable about them as a family, is that you just have such a range of beautiful, velvety, delicious, rich and wonderful coloured climbers in one family for any particular time of year, and I’m going to show you my six favourites for right now in July.

The first is ‘Madame Julia Correvon’, this is one of the biggest ones that we grow here. Lovely, magenta flowers, that romps up to about 3 metres. We have it climbing over a metal frame to give height in the Oast Garden and this is exactly the right colour for the Oast Garden, which is really intense and saturated. And also texture is important in there, and it’s nice and velvety. Not though, as velvety as this one, which is called ‘Royal Velour’ and it really is velour. It’s like the most velvety, luscious, dark, rich crimson, like a sort of cardinals cape. We have that dressing up a shrub that flowers in spring, which is Viburnum opulus (sterile), the guelder rose, which flowers April into May. And then this flowers from June until often September, not quite as prolific as ‘Julia Correvon’ but maybe a little bit longer. Used in a similar way, is ‘Etoile Violette’ and that’s this one, which means star violet, and you can see why. And it’s incredibly floriferous, the longest flowering of these types that we grow here, and just simply beautiful. We have it growing up through a rose called ‘Cerise Bouquet’, bright pink with this lovely deep purple growing through it.

So then, onto the true summer flowerers, with slightly bigger flowers. This is ‘Prince Charles’, this was one of Christopher Lloyd’s favourite clematis, and I remember seeing this at Great Dixter and being blown away by it growing right up into a tree. We have this again, through a black elder to dress it up for a longer season, and I love it’s big, you know, really quite showy flowers. So almost like ‘Perle d'Azur’ but even longer flowering and it’s just a really really good garden clematis, I’d be sad without that one. So that’s a cracker and it’s a really lovely sort lavender, mauve, purple, and bluey too.

The final two, I use a lot for picking and this is bred from the durandii clematis and you can tell that because it has no tendrils. So that’s what makes it so brilliant for picking, because the thing about picking the ones with tendrils is that they’re always tied so firmly into their bush or tree or climbing frame. Whereas this one, we have it growing on a metal fence, all the way down in the cutting garden and this is actually the Boulevard series that’s been bred from durandii that flowers for much longer and it’s just an absolute beauty and if you sear the stem ends in boiling water for twenty seconds it lasts for a week in the vase.

And then the final one which, without doubt, is the longest flowering in the garden here, that flowers often here from May until November or December and this is ‘Bill MacKenzie’. It reminds me of lemons hanging on a tree, Vita Sackville-West wrote beautifully about it because she also said the seedpods were so good, which they are, because they look like really fluffy little Irish terriers, and it always makes me laugh whenever I see them. These are brilliant and you can actually dry them and they hold onto their fluff, if you put them in a little drop of glycerine at the bottom of a milk bottle and just let the water evaporate over a couple of weeks and then it holds them without them getting brittle.

With any clematis, if you see them in nature, they grow in dappled shade and if you don’t have a shady spot then that doesn’t matter just lean a tile or some sort of little bit of wood or whatever over their roots. So their roots are shady but they can climb up into the sun and just make the whole garden look completely spectacular with their starry flowers, I love them. So just look at that mass of loveliness for July, what could be nicer really?