Saturday, March 26, 2011

Counseled by a Clematis


Dark pink and lavender clematis grow along my back fence, blooming every May. Last fall I wrapped the base with several twists of a soaker hose and plan on using Aqua Cones to deliver worm compost tea this summer.  

Still in my work clothes, I stand silently against the fence, the pruners quick in my hands, my feet careful of the daffodils.  The vine clings to the wire fence lining, its dried tendrils like earthen seaweed, sinuous in a wave of slow green and pale yellow. Memories roll to the surface as I navigate the clematis stems from dessicated tips to joints cracked and swollen with life. New stems burst from the ground, and climb not vertically but sideways, circling the wires and doubling back on old wood. Running my fingers along the older stems, they crackle and peel away, bending as I prune and guide them, newly shorn, through the fence. A smooth inner heart lies exposed and fresh, almost a pulse in my hand. The pale green heart bends while the outer shell breaks and I catch my breath and stop.

Planted on a dry slope, the pink clematis should not be alive. Competing for water with trees and a mass of perennials, it should have died years ago, a victim of ignorance and poor planning. But with spring rain it's own cycle continues and I am given a gift I have done nothing to deserve. Carefully pruning last years tendrils from the fence I wonder if I am as resiliant and forgiving as my garden. At what point does one bend instead of break? Sometimes there is too much thought in my garden, memories and ideas churning and crashing like surf.  I slide the pruners into my pocket and head back into the house, counseled by a clematis.


I redesigned this section of the garden last fall. Originally sunny and moist, this spot is now dry and shady thanks to a very huge and happy Rose of Sharon. The clematis was almost dormant by mid-July. Last fall I dug the clematis up, plopped it in a pot until I could figure out where to put it, and after a few days of sun and rain, new shoots were bursting from the base. It spent the winter in a large pot and has been transplanted to the fence near the Certified Wildlife Habitat sign that's pictured on the right, at the top of the blog. I cut back the Painter's Palette to make room.

14 comments:

  1. So much to think about when you write. You have a wonderful gift and I'm so grateful to have found your blog. Thanks for your incredible insight and ability to put it into words. Have a great weekend!

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  2. Beautiful - Clematis and your story.

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  3. This was a story deep with thought and sentiment. I so enjoyed your words and "the gift you did nothing to deserve." Is it not wonderful that a plant will survive in conditions not suited, and bloom and appear happy yet most obviously it is not? Make the best of what it has?

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  4. All your Clematis are really beautiful. I put in a couple last year but don't expect a lot out of them this year. They say they only creep the second year. At this point I am just hoping they survived their first winter here. Still too early to tell up here. I'll be very happy if they are as happy as yours seem to be.
    Cher
    Goldenray Yorkies

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  5. Very beautiful!
    Greetings, Diny

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  6. When clematis are happy they are the showiest of plants. Because you cared, and noticed, and moved, and potted, and redesigned your garden, you do in fact deserve the gift you have been given!

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  7. Isn't it wonderful how nature marches on despite us. I find myself often thinking thinking rethinking my garden. It's good to know that if I just let go, it will grow and progress on it's own.

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  9. The plants have to do their part, and the ever-shifting panaroma of microclimate is a key component too. Sometimes plants die when conditions seem perfect, and thrive when it seems like they shouldn't.

    Clematis ~ now that is a tangled jungle of complexity! So many different classes, and different pruning techniques required!

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  10. I find clematis I grow to be quite willful and this necessitates careful consideration when I am tending to them. Your post gave me the impression that you are in the present when handling your clematis, something I should be doing more of perhaps.

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  11. I have found clematis much tougher than they appear, although I have lost two to clematis wilt, which was really frustrating. I've learned that to keep them happy all summer, they need moist but well draining, fertile soil. Not a small order! But the payoff is worth it. :o)

    Patty - I try to be as observant as I can in my garden. I am always the student and Mother Nature, the teacher. Whenever I get cocky and think I know a thing or two, a plant dies. Lesson learned!!

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  12. The Clematis is such a romantic plant! It sounds like you have several growing in your garden. It must be beautiful!

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  13. That's a much better approach to clematis pruning than I generally manage. I get all het up and panicky about cutting the wrong bits. Lovely writing.

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  14. Lovely writing! Your clematis are very beautiful, thanks to your care. You give to them, and they reward you with their lovely flowers. Well deserved!

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