It’s been a vintage year for clematis, in our London garden especially. Plants that have previously performed well but never shone have been turbo-charged by a cool, damp start to the year. They have veritably raced up columns, walls and trees, treating us to lush, unblemished displays of colourful flowers. Non climbing Clematis heracleifolia has almost taken over the entire bog garden that separates our pond from the vegetable garden. In late summer its hyacinth-like, blue flowers will give us weeks of pleasure.
Cream of this year’s crop is Clematis ‘Madame Julia Correvon’, which I planted several years ago in the shelter of the Victorian school building where we live. Here the plant’s roots enjoy a cool, moist root-run, thickly mulched with pea gravel and shaded by surrounding pots and planters. Clematis dislike having their lower portions exposed to the sun so it’s a good idea to underplant or protect the first foot or so of growth with an old roof tile.
Raised in France in 1900, Clematis ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ was believed to have been lost in cultivation until it was rediscovered by esteemed plantsman Christopher Lloyd. The Lady, as I refer to her, produces rich, magenta-red flowers from long, pointed buds in mid summer and a second flush in early autumn. Her petals are as heavily rouged and puckered as a dowager’s lips. Whilst Madame Julia is resistant to clematis wilt she is prone to mildew which has, on occasion blighted the leaves and stems so badly that I’ve cut the whole plant back mid season. Regardless of her susceptibility, the RHS saw fit to bestow an Award of Garden Merit in 1993.
If I had choices I might grow Madame Julia through a purple-leaved shrub such as Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’ or Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’, or train her up a obelisk in a border planted with Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’, Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’, Ammi majus and magenta Lychnis coronaria. Provided the compost can be kept evenly moist, this versatile, free-flowering clematis will also do perfectly well in a pot.
Clematis ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ is available from Taylor’s Clematis and other reputable nurseries.