Scaling the heights.

My pink Clematis montana is quietly scrambling up one of the ancient oaks at the side of the garden,  at the back of the rhododendron bed. For years I thought it had died because the first year after planting I kept forgetting to water it and there was nothing to be seen.

Clematis montana

Clematis montana

I had planted it on the side of the tree facing the  house, thinking we would then be able to see it from the kitchen and dining room.

Clematis montana

Clematis montana

It had other plans. Unknown to me, it was slowly climbing the other side of the oak which faces the morning sun!

Clematis montana

Clematis montana

It came as quite a surprise when I suddenly found pink flowers half way up the oak tree.

Clematis montana

Clematis montana

Now it is well over 2/3rds of the way up before it tumbles down again, making a wonderful waterfall of pink blossom.

Clematis stem

Clematis stem

The stem which was so thin and delicate when it was planted, is now as thick as my wrist, I think it is a permanent fixture now. The oak must be well over 200 yrs old if not 300, going on the size of the trunk, and it needs something this huge and solid to hold all the weight of the clematis.

Clematis montana

Clematis montana

I wonder if the clematis will eventually scramble up to the very top of the tree,  it has certainly climbed much further than I had hoped when I planted it about 15 yrs ago. The will to live must be very strong in some plants, for my clematis to have succeeded in spite of my neglect!

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40 Responses to Scaling the heights.

  1. It looks really wonderful. I also have a montana climbing up the house and then along the brick wall. It has lots of buds, and I can´t wait to see it blossom. I think that montanas just need a few years before they really get going. So easy to keep. Do you give it fertilizer?

    • Pauline says:

      They certainly need to gather their strength Gitte, before they can put out so many flowers. Up till now I haven’t given it any fertilizer, but maybe I should as a thank you!

  2. AnnetteM says:

    They are beautiful climbers, aren’t they. I am now wondering whether I will keep mine contained in the area where I have it. It only has about 5 feet to grow up, though I suppose it could grow up the hedge too if it doesn’t mind being sheared every year!
    Yours look magnificent climbing up your oak tree. Makes me wonder whether I could try some cuttings near some of our larger trees.

    • Pauline says:

      They are such beautiful plants Annette, where do they get all their energy from? Yes, go for it, take some cuttings, as long as your trees can take the weight!

  3. sally says:

    Wow! That is one amazing plant, Pauline! I’ve never seen a Clematis that huge….perhaps because the ones I see are on a trellis……but, still I’m in awe! It is incredibly beautiful…..I’m imagining waking up and seeing all those blooms! Thanks for sharing!

    • Pauline says:

      It’s amazing what plants can do when they are released to do their own thing Sally! The tree is a lot taller than the house so I think it must have climbed up at least 50 ft before cascading down again, this makes it the biggest plant in the garden, apart from the huge trees of course!

  4. Liz says:

    Hi Pauline,

    Many plants will put up with a lot. And of course they always like to surprise us when we’re least expecting it.
    I suspect my Clematis ‘marjorie’ is doing similar to your Montana; on a much smaller scale though. I think mine is actually happily blooming away on the other side of the fence and thus into my neighbour’s garden rather than my own. And of course after having searched for it for years when I first moved in, it then disowns me and prefers my neighbour’s side!! Ah, plants.
    Then there’s my clematis ‘willy’. The poor thing has been through a few moves and in its current position looked very much dead. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and sure enough it’s coming back. Last year I think it managed 3 blooms. This year however we have 20-30. So I’m pleased to see it pulling through, slowly but surely.

    • Pauline says:

      Plants have to be tough sometimes Liz, when we forget all about them! How frustrating that your clematis flowers for your neighbours! I once had C.Willy but he did turn up his toes and died on me, so good to hear that yours is surviving nicely.

  5. Wonderful clematis Pauline! What a good idea to experiment with cuttings (as Annette suggests) in different parts of the garden. They do what they want, plants, don’t they? My mum has a nice C. alpina coming over from the neighbour’s garden. I often wish I could ask permission to run round to the other side and have a look at what it does there.

    • Pauline says:

      Good idea to take cuttings Cathy, of your Mum’s neighbours Clematis if it is coming into her garden, she could have her own! Plants do what they want, mine decided it wanted morning sun and not afternoon sunshine, we can just about see it from the house, but it makes me get out there to see it properly.

  6. Matt says:

    The clematis looks amazing and what a lovely surprise to have had it growing all that time unnoticed! Climbers really do have their own mind, don’t they…seldom doing what we want them to do 🙂

    • Pauline says:

      There are lots of tall shrubs round the old oak, so I didn’t notice the stem getting taller and thicker. I was quite surprised at how thick the stem was when I found it a couple of years ago. I’m just wondering now if the clematis will start climbing along the branches, will it ever stop or is it making a take over bid?!

  7. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Yours looks beautiful climbing up your ancient oak! I made the mistake of planting one beneath a 15 foot acer palmatum and the clematis grew far too vigorously for the tree. The clematis was cut to the ground but continues to spring back each year and cover some part of the tree with pink flowers before I cut it to the ground again. How it can tolerate such abuse is a mystery.

    • Pauline says:

      Thanks Peter, your poor Acer sounds as if it was overwhelmed by the clematis. It’s wonderful that it always grows back each year after it’s drastic pruning, it is determined to live!

  8. Sigrun says:

    Oh my goodness, what a stem! but the flowers are realy beautiful.


    • Pauline says:

      I agree Sigrun, the flowers are lovely, very pretty when cascading out of the oak. The stem is so thick, more like a thick rope now, than the delicate stem that was originally planted!

  9. pbmgarden says:

    Lovely. I’ve never seen a clematis so tall. That is an impressive stem.

    • Pauline says:

      I’m beginning to think I’ve never seen such a tall one either Susie, people usually keep them clipped to a fence round here. The stem impresses me too when I push through the shrubs to have a look at it.

  10. Chloris says:

    This one really is a monster. C. Montana is such a strong grower but I have never seen one with such a thick stem. What a lovely show they make. I have never tried taking clematis cuttings have you?

    • Pauline says:

      A nice monster though Chloris! Everybody in the village seems to have a C.montana, but they are all on walls, grown over hedges or on trellis. Mine seems to be the only one that is making a bid for freedom! Yes, I have done clematis cuttings when I’m asked for them, I think it is inter-nodal cuttings that you have to take, cutting the stem half way between the pairs of leaves.

  11. I am glad that you placed your hand in the picture to give us a sense of scale. Boy oh boy that is a big clematis stem! It must be like having an oak tree with pink flowers. I bet it must look amazing in flower.

  12. This is the first clematis I ever grew but I haven’t grown it for a long time. In the garden I have now, I’ve tried several times to grow a rose or vine up a tree, but didn’t have any luck. I don’t seem to have the knack for this technique.

    What a surprise it must have been to find your Clematis montana half way up the oak. It’s every bit as stunning as the one that grows on the tower at Sissinghurst.

    I’ve read through many of your past posts this morning, as wordpress has decided it will not send them to me. I especially enjoyed your “morning light” photos. The garden is really lovely this spring.

    • Pauline says:

      It was a lovely surprise Marian, to find that it had been quietly climbing the tree without any attention from me. You’re so kind to liken it to the one at Sissinghurst!
      Sorry WordPress have been messing about with my posts. My daughter complained the other day that she wasn’t getting e.mails any more, it was just appearing on Twitter and Facebook, so my son has been informed and I hope he can sort it out quickly.

  13. Cathy says:

    I love it when the tendrils hang down like curtains like this 🙂 Yours must look fantastic!

  14. Cathy says:

    Oh – my comment seems to have disappeared! I was just saying how much I liked it when clematis hangs down like this in curtains 🙂

  15. kate says:

    You’ve given me heart – I have two clematis montana plants which I have been trying to persuade to behave like your gorgeous specimen for ages. I’ll give them a little longer – I just love it when they look like yours. Sigh!

    • Pauline says:

      Maybe they just need a good talking to Kate! We have another in the back garden, a white one which was planted to commemorate our son’s wedding, which was 10 yrs ago, this one is only half way up an Ash tree, it still has a long way to go. I think maybe I need to give them both a handful of fertilizer!

  16. Angie says:

    It’s an amazing specimen isn’t it? There is little else to say that hasn’t been said above. It has obviously thrived on the neglect Pauline – well done!

  17. alberto says:

    Hi Pauline! your clematis montana looks great! I think they could reach about 10 meters or more, monotones are very though clematis! I have just planted a white one (cl. m. wilsonii) that is supposed to smell like chocolate, I think it doesn’t but anyway I like its greenish white flowers and I am sure it will cover all the east fence in a few years…

    • Pauline says:

      Thanks Alberto, but I think mine is now well over 30 metres as it has climbed up the tree and then down again! I hope your white one covers your fence, they really are wonderful for creating a wall of flowers.

  18. snowbird says:

    What a wonderful surprise that must have been, to think it has been quietly growing away all these years! I think they are such hardy vines, I have a few, but one in particular is a real gem. I love the thickness of the stem, what a wonderful partnership, an old oak and vine!xxx

    • Pauline says:

      It was Dina, a lovely surprise! I’m rather glad it decided to climb down again and not climb even higher into the crown of the tree, as I don’t want it smothering the leaves, otherwise it would kill the tree and that would never do!

  19. catmint says:

    Hi Pauline, what a tough plant that Clematis is. It’s in the very right place, and managing quite well without any need for you to nurture it. It’s ideal – all you have to do is admire it! That old oak is very special too. Pretty photos.

    • Pauline says:

      I wish more plants were like the clematis Catmint, some are just too fussy! Each day I go to look at it and more flowers have opened, I must remember to include it in Bloom Day on the 15th. We are lucky to have the old oaks, 5 in all, most the same age of between 2 and 3 hundred years old, if only they could talk!

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