Princess Diana was a breath of fresh air, not only to the British monarchy, but to the world, indeed. Young and beautiful, she cast a spell on the ancient dowdiness of the monarchy and hustled it into the 21st century, almost, tragically leaving us in August 1997.
It was the night after our daughter’s garden wedding and I remember it all too well. We were having dinner in a little French bistro with a dear friend who had traveled from Scotland to attend the wedding. The French chef burst from the tiny kitchen and lamented uncontrollably, “Princess Diana has been badly injured in a car accident in Paris.”
Then a dinner conversation began with our Scottish friend about how the news would be received in Great Britain.
“Oh, I don’t know, she was a bit of a loose-cannon, you know,” our friend opined from one British point of view.
Both my husband and I disagreed and forecast an enormous sadness and grieving, if Princess Diana, still hanging by a thread, did not survive. Minutes later, we heard the news. And she was gone forever.
Our lady friend boarded a plane home across the Atlantic the next day and later emailed to say that she couldn’t believe the pall that hung over Heathrow at her arrival back in the UK. And the rest is history in the world’s mourning for the gracious, loving Princess.
Four winters ago, while perusing the usual gardening magazines on a cold snowy day, I happened upon the Clematis, ‘Princess Diana’, dog-earred the page and ordered it for the coming spring. When it arrived from Bluestone Perennials, it was a skinny little thing, but had great roots, the analogy to its namesake was unmistakable.
I chose a sunny spot by the garden door and planted it with its ‘feet’ in the shade and its spindly green leaves, I think there were three, in the sun. And waited. And waited. Nothing that summer. No blooms, no obvious growth. The next summer, 2007, I was ill and really didn’t pay much attention to the garden, pulling a weed here and there, but never treating the clematis with lime in the spring as I should have. Still in the latter two years, 2008 and 2009, there were no signs of Princess Diana. Still a ‘lady’ in waiting.
Early this spring, I noticed a sprig of something green emerging, where four years before I had placed a bamboo stake, marking the spot where I had planted the Clematis ‘Princess Diana’. And there were buds. The waiting was over.
Clematis ‘Princess Diana’ doesn’t make a big splash its first blooming season, but I am hoping this lady will mature and fill out in coming years. Probably best to plant a couple, if you want a bigger display, but be prepared to wait a while.
Bluestone describes the Princess Diana as ‘classy’, and that it is, with its tulip-shaped bell blooms of ‘hottish’ pink with just a glimmer of blue on its outside, more analogy. Because of its color and shape, it also has the added bonus of attracting hummingbirds. Princess Diana, a true lady among clematis. requires some maintenance, a Group 3 clematis, which means she should be pruned in February or March as the new leaf buds begin to show. Like her namesake, Clematis ‘Princess Diana’ will grow high, following the sun, blooming June, July, and again in September. Planted with the Clematis Princess Diana is Clematis ‘Blue Angel’, which is a pale lavender recurved clematis, also a member of group 3, and blooms all summer, June through August.
The Blue Angel climbs up through a beautiful apricot rose called Ginger Syllabub, which reaches about ten feet in the air this year and smells divine. It was purchased from Heirloom Roses, which is an ‘own root’ rose grower.
After four years of waiting for this gardener’s Princess Diana to grow and bloom, I have decided, this lady is very much worth waiting for. Memory in a garden of a lovely, true humanitarian who just happened to be a Princess.