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Training a clematis to climb

Question

Purchased your plants from my local nursery

I'm a novice gardener. I would like to train my clematis to climb my lattice pergola. I know I can use string, but I was wondering if there was a certain distance.

Thank you,

Kimberly

David replies...

Clematis are really easy to train -- just lean the stems against the lattice and they will begin to clasp the lattice as they grow.

You can loosely tie in the stems if you are worried about them blowing off, we usually thread the top of the flexible stems through the holes so that they can begin to take hold.

Take a close look at the leaves, it is really interesting how the little stems (called petioles) coil around objects -- they seem to sense the presence of a branch, bamboo cane or in your case lattice, they coil around it and then grow up and through the framework holding the top of the plant in place.

As for the planting distance away from the lattice -- it depends on the actual position.

If the lattice is fixed to a wall or under the overhang of a building where the soil is likely to be dry; it is a good idea to locate the hole out from the lattice where the roots will get more moisture and lean the stems inwards, training them along a cane narrow pieces of wood or twine until they reach the lattice (In nature they will often scramble along the ground for considerable distances). If on the other hand the lattice is out in the open and there is no difference in light and soil moisture they can be placed close to the fence or lattice, just dig a good big hole, incorporate plenty of planting compost and water well until they get established (refer to the planting instructions on the tags).

There is an old saying: "keep their heads in the sun and their roots in the shade." So when choosing the planting position try to find a place that will be cool and moist (but not waterlogged). Some people even plant them on the shady side of a corner or fence (north or east facing) training the heads around the corner or through the fence so that the growth and resultant flowers enjoy the sun.

In the old days head gardeners were also known to place a big rock on the soil to help keep the roots cool. Today, we use a good layer of mulch to help keep the soil cool and moist.

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