Sometimes called the queen of flowering vines, Clematis are the most popular of all hardy vines. All climbing Clematis--from the Greek clema
, meaning "tendril"--attach themselves with twisting leaf stalks and can be used to cloak a wall, arbor, or trellis. However, many species are not true climbers; in the wild they thrust their stems through shrubby plants, relying on them for support.
Its climbing habit and showy flowers made it popular from the late 1500s, especially in the English cottage garden style. With a deep affection for this plant, the English have bequeathed it with multiple common names such as "Traveler's Joy", "Old Man's Beard", and "Virgin's Bower", which refers to a lady's shelter made from vines.
Clematis flower "petals" are actually colored sepals modified to attract pollinators. After the abundant flowers fade in many species, the show continues well into autumn and winter with decorative, silvery seed heads.
Clematis are fast growing and produce an exceptional amount of bloom. Clematis come in a wide range of flower colors, varying flower sizes and shapes, varying heights, and varied bloom times. Clematis are very long-lived and benefit from proper site selection where they can be left undisturbed for years. There is simply no more colorful way to decorate a post, a fence, or a trellis. Most require such support structures to which they can attach.