When the bluebirds come back and the maple syrup starts to run, with bright sunny days, you’ll want to get outside for a while and take care of March garden chores. (Autumn care included as well.)

Yesterday, I did just that, raked up a few leaves and found these: // Pretty slim pickins’, signs of spring are hard to find these days.
But then continued on to the perennial vine, one of many in this garden, clematis, and the rose bush that it grows through.

Pretty sad looking now, but it actually looks like this in the summer.

The rose is ‘Ginger Syllabub’ English Climbing Rose, purchased online at Heirloom Roses.

Own root roses take a while to catch on, but once they do, there are many advantages to planting own root roses over budded roses. They are more winter hardy; more virus free and have no suckers to contend with. They have a far better chance of survival during severe winters as they can freeze to the ground and still spring back from their roots and bloom the following summer when a budded plant would be dead. Own root roses have a much longer life than budded roses. This one is very fragrant — Ginger Syllabub English Climbing Rose. The photo below has a link to the rest of the information about this rose. It would make a truly delightful addition to any garden.

Fragrant Ginger Syllabub Climbing Rose

The Clematis perennial vine here is the variety ‘Betty Corning’ and grows up through this climbing rose. Betty Corning is a delicate downward facing bell-shape, which blooms all summer with silvery blue tones. Faithfully…perennial.

Clematis 'Betty Corning'

There are hundreds of varieties of clematis, almost in every shade of the rainbow. There are three categories of care. To prune or not to prune, most need pruning and all need care, but very little and will prove faithful year after year. This is how to prune and care for clematis in the spring.
If your clematis is to be pruned, you should do this between February and April. There are three groups of clematis pruning. To make sure which group yours is in, find your individual variety to determine proper care.

Group 1:

Clematis vines that grow on old growth from last summer’s growth, this means they flower in the summer, and you should only prune them after they have bloomed. You can of course, take off any dead or broken stems.

Group 2:

These varieties need to be pruned in early spring to promote growth in their summer flowering season on the previous season’s stems. Cut the stems to about 12″ after the first year of planting or just above any new shoots of leaves. Remove any dead and weak stems. The second year and thereafter, trim to 3-5 feet.

Group 3:

These varieties bloom on new season’s growth and should be pruned very lightly just above the buds.

If you have a large vining Clematis ‘Montana,’ which blooms in the early spring and is pale pink or white and it has grown up a tree 50 feet in the air, then you obviously are not going to trim it very much. We have one that has been growing about 15 years, which has covered the entire umbrella of a Sophora Tree, is never pruned and blooms faithfully perennially.

Clematis 'Montana'

This photo was taken about 5 years ago and it has grown at least another ten feet since then, as tall as it is wide.

Soil and planting:

Clematis like rich humus soil, which is kept watered, but not soaked. They also like to have their faces in the sun and their feet in the shade. This means clematis like their roots cool and out of the hot sun. Use a broken clay pot to make a little umbrella for their roots. Mulching might cause the clematis to “dampen” and look as if it is sad with droopy stems. Give clematis vines something to climb on: lattice, rose bush, a wall or a tree.

Clematis color choice:

When planting a clematis to grow up a rose bush, choose another color which complements the perennial planting. If the rose is red, then choose a pink, white, or blue clematis variety.


You can mulch the clematis and add a little slow release fertilizer in the spring. If you’ve tested your soil, you might need a little lime added. I always adds about three tablespoons of lime in the spring to promote clematis growth.

Old clematis plants: “If you wish, you can rejuvenate old plants by cutting them back severely, to about 18in. Wait until after the first flush of bloom to perform the surgery.”

Fall care: Check to be certain that the vines of Group 1 and 2 varieties are tied securely to supports and will withstand winter wind and snow. Provide winter protection for Clematis planted during the fall, keeping material away from the crown. If the season is dry, water well and deeply.

Copyright, Sharon Watterson, 2010.