The only plant of any value that came with the purchase of Polegate Cottage was a clematis. Squeezed into an impossibly tight gap between paving slabs it scrambles over a wrought iron arch above the garden gate. It has withstood all the builders’ toings and froings and is now covered in a rude quantity of rich, velvety flowers. The clematis in question, like C. “Madame Julia Correvon”, is a viticella type with an RHS Awards of Garden Merit, and is called C. “Étoile Violette”. Both clematis were bred by Francisque Morel of Lyon in the early 1900s and remain amongst the most popular varieties in cultivation today.
Contrary to my photographs, the flowers of C. “Étoile Violette” are a particularly dark, inky purple and not flushed with magenta. Their true, regal colour is just about visible in the flowers at the very top of the image below. The dark flowers with their pale yellow stamens contrast wonderfully with excellent, blemish-free foliage. It may be the sea air, but I have never experienced powdery mildew with this particular variety, which is also resistant to clematis wilt. C. “Étoile Violette” flowers from July to September on the current season’s growth, which means it needs pruning hard to 8″ – 10″ above ground at the end of winter. Apart from providing a climbing frame, no other maintenance is needed. The flowers are on the small side compared to some earlier flowering clematis, but are borne in such profusion that very little foliage is visible during the first flush. A well established plant might climb to a height of 10′ – 12′ but will never become rampant as some clematis can.
Plant C. “Étoile Violette” where it can scramble through shrubs that flower in early summer (philadelphus for example) to prolong the season, through a hedge, or up a well-lit wall amongst yellow, pink or white-flowered roses. This versatile climber is worthy of the recommendation that if you only have space for one clematis, C. “Étoile Violette” could be your very best choice.