x-Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica
There are just a few climbing plants in bloom in the depths of winter which makes Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica a very useful plant indeed.
An evergreen, it has glossy, deep green leaves that are far more interesting than the simple ovals of other evergreen clematis such as C. armandii; these are a pretty shape, cut into three and turn an attractive bronze as the light levels drop in winter.
Its crowning glory however, are its nodding, cup-shaped, cream flowers, patterned within with maroon freckles and with masses of long, prominent, anthers hanging down. They resemble little bells and have a sweet, fresh, citrus fragrance that is particularly pungent on sunny winter days.
Following the flowers, come silvery seed heads that are almost as eye catching as the blooms themselves and extend the season of these garden worthy plants beautifully.
Finches will feed on the seeds themselves, while other birds will use the soft, fluffy heads as nesting material in the spring. Clematis cirrhosa is great for wildlife generally, with the flowers providing welcome, early season nectar for foraging insects and its evergreen habit is somewhere safe for roosting and nesting birds.
Make the most of these cheery flowers and grow this lovely clematis where it can scramble over an arch or arbor and its flowers and scent can be appreciated close up. It is also perfect for clothing unsightly walls or fences and looks stunning rambling through small, deciduous trees.
Plant Clematis cirrhosa in the early autumn, rather than spring, to allow it time to establish a little before the winter, water well before planting and dig a generous sized hole that is bigger than the root ball.
It likes a warm, sunny spot and is only frost hardy so will need protection through the winter in colder areas. A warm, south-facing wall will help it tremendously. It also needs a fertile, rich, well draining soil, so scatter fertilizer, such as blood, fish and bone, or bonemeal, at the bottom of the hole and plant the clematis deeply, burying its stem a good six cm lower than it was in the pot it came in.
Like all clematis it likes having cool, shaded roots so grow it close to other plants to help keep the roots in shade. Keep it well watered in the first year and give it a mulch in winter with well rotted garden compost, taking care to keep it away from the base of the plant.
Clematis cirrhosa needs no routine pruning and can be kept in trim by simply cutting it back to a pair of healthy buds. If plants are getting leggy however, with blooms only at the very tips, it can be cut back hard in spring and will grow and flower well later that year.