Low-Growing Beauties: Herbaceous Clematis

Tall, climbing clematis are amongst my favourite plants. I love the different flower forms, as well as their wonderfully rich colours and the velvety look of their petals. But I can struggle to keep them going here, in the dry and baking soil of my East-Anglian garden.

The short-growing herbaceous varieties of clematis may be a dependable alternative here. I have two at the moment: ‘Sapphire Indigo’ ( just opening in the top photograph) and the popular ‘Arabella’ below. They have been in the garden for a number of years and have managed to come through the drought and unusually high temperatures of this summer without any extra watering. Both are still in flower now, at the beginning of October and have been in flower on and off from June. (They would probably be more constantly in flower if they had more moisture.)

Clematis Arabella
Clematis Arabella

Reading up on these clematis tells me that they don’t suffer from clematis wilt and that they are long-lived. They have no tendrils to help them climb and are only 30 to 60 cm tall, so are good where they can grow through another plant for some support. I have ‘Arabella’ growing through a shrubby sage that gets to over 60 cm and provides a useful home where the clematis can lean against its twiggy framework.

The only problem that I’ve found so far is that slugs and snails like snacking on the flowers. So I’ll need to find something gritty or prickly (we have a holly and mahonia bushes, so perhaps some of their leaves) to sprinkle around the stems in the hope of keeping these marauders away.

The flowers on these two plants start off with a lot of purple in their colour when they first open and then gradually become more blue as they age. (You can see the newly-opened flowers of ‘Arabella’ here.) My last photograph is another purply-blue short-growing clematis, probably a clematis integrifolia. This one was photographed on a visit to Fullers Mill Garden and is one that I would like to try here. These lovely purple-blues are my favourites, but I’m sure I’ll be tempted by pink and white varieties too. For now though, I’m going back outside with my camera to take some more pictures of ‘Sapphire Indigo’…

Clematis integrifolia
Clematis integrifolia