A Brief History of Clematis

Clematis from the Greek (klema) for branchlet.

There are over 400 wild varieties of native clematis, in fact most countries in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere and to some extent in the southern hemisphere have species of clematis. For example, C. alpina is found in eastern Europe and C. cirrhosa in Mediterranean countries, C. vitalba in Britain, C. montana in India, C. lanuginosa in China, C. patens in Japan, C. aristata in Australia, C. afoliata in New Zealand and C. virginiana in America.

Early plant collectors brought examples back to europe, which were soon to enrich it's flora. One of the first to be introduced to England was C. viticella, which was brought from Spain in 1569. This was followed in 1596 by three other European species, C. cirrhosa, C. integrifolia and C. flammula. They were all used in hybridising programmes to produce new varieties. It was not until the 19th century that the stock for the large flowered clematis, which is so admired today was introduced from China, C. lanuginosa for example and C. patens from Japan. The Victorians took to clematis in a big way and the pioneering nursery of Jackmans once held a list of 343. Unfortunately the then little understood disease wilt, decimated the commercial stocks and it was not until after the second world war that nurseries were once more able to pursue serious large scale propagation. However the legacy of the Victorians does live on, many of the popular large flowered clematis available today come from the last century.

For more clematis information by John Howells click the highlighted titles below.


John Howells' Work on Stem Rot (Clematis Wilt)

Howells' Gardeners' Classification of Clematis

Pruning the Twelve Groups of Clematis

Round the Year Care of Clematis

Five Ways of Combining Roses and Clematis

Twelve Easy Combinations of Roses and Clematis

Exploding Myths About Clematis

Pronouncing Clematis

Clematis for North Facing Walls

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