In recent years both gardeners and florists have become better acquainted with non-twining, ‘herbaceous’ clematis. They make excellent border plants, especially in situations where a little height is required, and elegant, long-lasting cut flowers. The main distinction between herbaceous and climbing clematis is that the former do not produce twining leaves and are therefore incapable of supporting themselves. This is not to suggest they will not grow tall – many will grow 5-8ft from the root – but they will need the support of a nearby shrub, trellis or plant support. Herbaceous clematis will also scramble across the ground; helpful in areas where early summer flowers are past their best. If you choose to let them crawl, take care to protect tasty shoots from marauding slugs and snails that will soon turn your colourful carpet into a picnic. One of my absolute favourite herbaceous clematis is C. x durandii AGM, which has simple, stylish indigo-blue flowers. This variety looks lovely among roses, nepeta and astrantia in a midsummer border.
A few years ago, from the clearance area of our local garden centre, I purchased Clematis ‘Inspiration’, believing it to be a conventional climber. A newish introduction, it’s a cross between a large-flowered purple climber called C. ‘Warszawska Nike’ and a lovely scrambling herbaceous variety with nodding flowers called C. integrifolia ‘Rosea’. It has taken a little while to establish itself at the foot of a wall behind our vegetable garden, but this year has come of age. We’ve been enjoying a succession of crinkled, cruciform, rose-pink flowers for a month already and there are lots more blooms on the way. They do bleach a little in bright sunlight, which is rarely an issue in our shady London garden, but just over the last few days I have noticed them starting to fade. No matter, the colour is very welcome, as are the fluffy seed heads that will follow.