Is It Klem-Muh-Tis or Klem-Mat-Is?

by John Bagnasco

clematis
Photo by Ed G on Unsplash

Gardeners seem to be equally split with the pronunciation of “clematis”, with Klem-uh-tis being the preferred British way of saying it.

However, there are many Americans who also use this pronunciation. To add to the confusion, parts of Britain also say kluh-may-tus. Webster seems to approve of both the first two pronunciations. No matter your preference, there is no doubt that clematis are spectacularly beautiful flowering vines.

For some reason, they are not used as often as they could be in Southern California. As I visited garden centers in Idaho last week and saw so many varieties in full bloom, I was motivated to look for places to plant them in my Fallbrook garden.

Japanese garden selections, mostly cultivated from 1603 to 1867, used species that were native to Japan or China and were the first exotic clematis to reach European gardens, in the 18th century. The climbing varieties are valued for their ability to scramble up walls, fences, and other structures and also to grow through other plants, such as shrubs and trees. Some can be trained along the ground. Because of their adaptability and masses of spectacular flowers, clematis are among the most popular of all garden plants. Many choice and rare cultivars are available from mail order and online catalogues. Specialists regularly put on displays in national flower shows such as the Chelsea Flower Show. Over 80 varieties and cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Clematis will grow in any good garden soil. The roots usually require a moist, cool substrate, while the leafy parts can take full sun. Some more delicate cultivars such as ‘Nelly Moser’ do better in light shade. Many clematis can be grown successfully in containers. Different varieties and cultivars require varied pruning regimes from no pruning to heavy pruning annually.

The pruning regime for a cultivated clematis falls into three categories:

Group 1 – Vigorous species and early-flowering hybrids do not require pruning, other than to occasionally remove tangled growth such as, C. armandii, C. montana and C. tangutica).

Group 2 – Large-flowered hybrids blooming in early summer on the previous season’s growth can be pruned lightly in the dormant season for structure. These large-flowered hybrids include ‘Nelly Moser’ ‘Niobe’ and ‘The President’.

Group 3 – Late-flowering hybrids which bloom on the current season’s growth can be pruned back to a pair of buds in the dormant season. Included are ‘Ernest Markham’, ‘Gipsy Queen‘ and ‘Jackmanii’, as well as species like C. integrifolia, C. texensis and C. viticella.

There are many clematis retailers online and Bluestone Perennials offers smaller pots at a substantial savings.