Sweet Jesus, I bet you never expected to hear me pontificating the merits of Clematis, well the climbing ones at least! Truth is, I don’t have the sun required to grow them, and up until very recently, [see previous post on Clematis ‘Mrs. Harvey’] I really didn’t see what all the fuss was about! To the untrained shade tinted eye they are somewhat wily and gangly, always in need of support, and seemingly running amok, smothering out its more fragile neighbors. And then I visited the gardens of Marie, one of our faithful loyal customers at LittleTree Garden Market!
I am the first to admit that the unexpected love affair began the moment I stepped from the vehicle. Against the side of the house was Clematis ‘Odoriba.’ How could you not fall in love! Suddenly my deeply rooted affinity for all things shady was in jeopardy of being compromised!
With each footfall I could feel my resistance falling away! Beware, resistance is futile! Clematis ‘Betty Corning’ remains a favourite amongst Clematis collectors and connoisseurs! Sadly, it remains somewhat elusive in commerce here in Ontario!
Marie and her husband have lived on their wonderful rural property for fifteen years. A long, meandering drive crosses a natural creek that culminates in a pond that reflects the timbers of a recently restored barn. I first met Marie via by blog when I was seeking the divine blue flowering Corydalis elata. It was she who introduced me to Lost Horizons – that wonderful botanically rich woodland nursery in Acton, Ontario. The following year, while employed there, I had the privilege of meeting Marie in person! Our friendship was instantaneous, and in the ensuing years, Marie has been a loyal LittleTree customer. Having the opportunity to view her gardens in person was a dream come true!
Oh, did I mention that Marie suffers from a similar malady as myself? When we find a genera that captures our attention, we tend to focus on it to the point of obsession. For Marie its all about Clematis. Here are a few more from her more than impressive collection:
She looks strikingly familiar does she not? Why of course, its Clematis ‘Mrs. Harvey!’ And isn’t that Princess Diana meandering nearby? Indeed it is! Those bright magenta lipstick shaped flowers are a dead giveaway! [Oh, sorry. Not the best choice of wording now was it! The late Princess was one I admired so I tried to grow her but the lack of sun led to her early demise!]
In a recent blog post Marie spoke of her shade gardens, and lets be honest, anyone with the slightest knowledge of my shadier proclivity can understand the excitement that continued to build the closer we came to the shadier areas of the property!
The exclamation ‘Sweet Jesus’ seemed to punctuate the stillness of the garden the deeper I investigated into the shady nooks of the property! I have this same plant, Anemonopsis macrophylla, and after three years had almost given up home of it ever maturing into anything remotely similar in size to this voluptuous patch! ‘I think I’ve had it six years!’ was actually music to my ears and eyes! If I can wait another three, this might be the reward I have to look forward to! Fingers crossed!
I lost my Morina longifolia last winter, but was still in awe of the fact that Marie’s patch must have included close to eight stems that will bloom in the coming weeks! Its a wonderful oddity, with thistle like foliage and wonderful flowers that only turn pink as each flower is fertilized!
One of my favourite aspects of working at LittleTree is that sometimes my favourite clients come in just to talk plants! Perhaps they need an identification on something that, in the throes of a mass purchase, they have forgotten the name, or sometimes, and these are the moments I relish most, they will introduce me to something rare and unusual that they grow! This is definitely the case with Gillenia stipulata! I am well acquainted with G.trifoliata, but when Marie recently expounded the virtues of one with deeply serrated foliage…. well you know the immediate response when I spotted Mousier Stipulata!
Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’ glows in the woodland garden, one that in early Spring is awash with flood waters. I was amazed to see how many plants seemed to thrive at this time of year after having been submerged in early Spring. I think I know the secret behind successfully cultivating Disporum cantoniense ‘Night Heron’ – flood the bejesus out of it in the Spring and then sit back and wait.
‘And before you shout Sweet Jesus again, yes Barry, that is Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty!’ Another rare and unusual woodland wonder that I have been tempted to break down and purchase! [No Megan, I did not type that last sentence. That was the ‘editor’ at large!]
I mentioned Disporum cantoniense ‘Night Heron’ a paragraph or so back….. this is what I am talking about! I have tried everything to get mine to grow, and every year it gives me two or three stems that might reach 30cm in height, but rarely anything larger. Sweet Jesus, I couldn’t get even half of this plant into the viewfinder. Drown the beast! It seems to like it from what Marie said about the Spring flooding!
My head was awash with information: new plants that I needed to try and locate [another reason for a return trip to Lost Horizons? Like I ever need one!] new planting combinations, and the desire to seek out more sun [‘you could always grow them on your roof you know!] so that I could grow at least two or three more Clematis!
Kind thanks to Megan, my partner in crime for providing the transportation, but most importantly, thanks to Marie for giving us the opportunity to get an up close and personally guided tour of what truly is a labor of love and botanical wonder!