Gardening Society - October 2017 Report


Stratford sub Castle Gardening Society

Clematis                                                                                    Marcel Floyd

Our October meeting began with something different, something we had not done before – or at least, not recently. Alternate years, after the Open Gardens event, the society makes a donation to a charity or two. 

This year followed that plan but instead of just posting a cheque, we were able to present a cheque to the Alabare Champion in the village. Ted and Veronica Uren were our guests for the evening and Ted gave a very succinct, two minute talk, on the work done by Alabare for people who, for myriad reasons, have hit hard times. The Alabare Garden Centre, at Old Sarum, employs and gives self–worth and confidence to some of the people it supports and they have an ongoing project which requires funding. Our donation was small but it all helps and now more of our members know about the Garden Centre and can support it. Thank you to our members who supported the Open Gardens event and to Ted and Veronica who joined our enthusiastic audience that evening.

Marcel Floyd, our speaker, was bubbling with enthusiasm and invited questions at any time. I felt very proud of our members as questions came thick and fast throughout the talk so, obviously, clematis are very popular.

The big question is always about pruning. Well, there are three basic kinds of clematis and whichever one you have got will fit into one of these three groups. When you buy a new one the label should reveal all but try to remember to which pruning group it belongs.

Group One. Don’t prune clematis in this group, just tidy them up. Those big Montana plants belong here and if yours has become enormous and has to be cut back then use really sharp, sterile secateurs or loppers and take back to leave two nodes of new wood. In other words, keep some new wood and be prepared for the worst as there is only a 50% chance of survival. My experience shows that this is true as a big Montana Clematis of mine, which stretched from Blackburn to Burnley, died when I pruned it.

Group Two. This is easy! In spring, prune back all the dead stuff and stop when you come to a strong pair of buds. In other words, if it is alive, give it a go.

Group Three. The audience gasped when Marcel demonstrated this. He took a healthy looking plant, about three feet tall (a metre tall) and cut it off level with the compost. Group three clematis flower on the new growth so cut off all old material, dead or alive, each spring.

If you are not sure if your plant is group two or three and the winter has been mild so that there is some live growth, prune half of it quite severely and half of it gently. I did that once and was delighted with the result – there were two flushes of flowers. If plants are in the right position for their requirements then just remember that plants love to grow – apart from my Montana! Also, the half and half treatment is good if your plant looks like a lollipop with bare legs and a bird’s nest on top. Cut some of it down to a foot (30cm) tall one year and repeat with the other half the following year.

A popular clematis is Wisley Cream. Unlike the information that ‘comes on the packet’, it has to face EAST to succeed and it may need stressing, that is, keep it short of water, in order to flower well. Apart from that, here are some general rules for success.

The planting hole needs to be enormous – 18 inches across and deep. (45cm).

Mulch in Autumn to retain heat and give bone meal in Spring and Autumn.

Feed once per week from second week in April until flowering and then stop. Feed more often if the plant is in a container.

A good ground cover, for keeping the root run cool, is Heuchera as this colourful plant does not harbour slugs, unlike the heap of stones that is recommended. Finally, banana skins are a brilliant fertiliser!

You may receive the Parish Magazine just before our November meeting. Stuart Pocock will be telling us ‘All about Roses’ on 30th November. There is no meeting between Christmas and New Year but on 25th January 2018, Dorothy and Andrew Richards are letting us into some of the secrets of the Horticultural Trade. Have you ever wondered how those little chrysanthemums that flourish in March for Mother’s Day became invented? We know that normally these plants flower in September and October. Visitors and new members are most welcome at 7.15 for 7.30pm for ‘Pot Mums for Mother’s Day and Other Curiosities’. See you in the Reading Room where there is a free car park if you need it. Meanwhile keep warm and well this winter.

Dorothy Richards