Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cutting Your Losses

I am tired of my clematis. It hangs from the trellis, brown and skeletal, a single bloom punctuating the white column behind it. Lush and covered with flowers in June, its desiccated remains a stark taunt to the voluptuousness of summer. I look away and force thoughts of June blue but can feel the irritation rising. I just want it to go away. My flow chart brain kicks into gear and I create a plan to amend the soil, build a berm, and gently prune away old wood but it feels incomplete and I keep spiraling back to square one. I'm tired of my clematis because it's miserable. Amending, berming, and gently pruning won't accomplish anything.



'The President' clematis in spring 2013



A slight tug on the thin stems and they snap free. I continue to pull, curving stems falling around my feet. For every decision I analyze and ponder, there are those that are spontaneous and irrevocably decisive. It wasn't enough that I had decided to pull out the dead wood. I wanted to pull out all the wood - dead or alive. I really just wanted to prune the whole damn thing to the ground and start over. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses and move on.


Spring 2014

I should have stopped to grab my camera and take a variety of wretched photos showing the old thick stems curling through each other like a ball of snakes but I didn't. I was too busy chopping every single stem straight to the ground and pulling out wood so rotten it shrugged from the earth with a careless sigh. When that wasn't enough, I slipped into the small space between the patio and the shrubs and dug it up and replanted it. I needed new stems, straight and strong to hold the heavy blooms I knew would come. 


*****


Cutting the vine to the ground helped me reposition and repair the damaged soaker hose. Fixing a torn soaker hose is very cheap and easy. This was ripped in two places which explained why I always had a wet driveway and a dry clematis.


Clematis are much tougher than they look. I wasn't able to remove every root but this rootball is big enough that it will grow back and be just fine.


My 'President' clematis competes with a row of Japanese hollies for moisture and nutrients in a dry spot between the walkway and the patio. Planted too close to the house in compacted soil, keeping it happy in the summer is a challenge. I moved it away from the wall and amended the soil with about 50 lbs of compost. I created a berm stabilized with rocks to keep the soil from eroding. Soaker hoses circle the newly planted vine.


I stuck the last clematis bloom in a vase with some zinnias. On a Windowsill on Tuesday is as close as I get to the meme In a Vase on Monday.

65 comments:

  1. Ah. I've made those "sudden" decisive decisions myself at times. If I'm honest, my decisions aren't usually all that sudden - they've been falling into place slowly, irrevocably for some time until I reach a "just do it" moment. I'm glad 'The President' is getting a new home - if that's what the clematis looks like when it's starved for water and nutrients, I can only imagine what it'll look like when it's well supported.

    P.S. Your vase would be a welcome addition to the "In a Vase" meme. It's about the story, as much as the flowers.

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    1. By the time I cut it down it was a brown skeleton. It was truly wretched. Part of it was just the time of year as they go dormant but I have other clematis that are still very green and full so I knew The President needed a drastic change. It was pretty happy in both pictures. I should have taken a picture of it looking like a half dead twig, but I was too busy chopping.

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  2. Reading this I recalled another of your posts where a passing car slows as the driver takes a look at your Clematis in bloom. Good call on returning it to "traffic stopper" status for next year. Never mind about process photos, it's easier to remember this beauty at its summer best.

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    1. I'm always so touched when other bloggers remember past posts! Thanks so much! This vine was screaming for help. I'm glad I finally listened.

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  3. Hi Tammy, first I have to say that that clematis looks absolutely incredible in spring 2013! I don't think, that I have seen a 'The President' clematis blooming that profusely.
    Moving it seemed to be the right decision as the way you describe it the location wasn't 'quite right for it' to make the clematis and you happy all year long and hopefully the new place will meet its needs better. You certainly have done what you could by putting 50 lbs of compost down and stabilizing the soil with rocks. Hope the clem will do much better next year in its new home. Sometimes it is just about location, location, location :-)! Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. It's in the same spot, just further away from the wall with richer soil. A few of the stems were growing so close to the wall I couldn't even get the soaker hose between them. It has more breathing room now and I feel much more satisfied and content that it will be happier next year. :o)

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  4. I hope it survives, it's gorgeous.
    This year I did something similar, but being an impatient sort did it in summer. Yours has a better chance!

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    1. If I had dug this in the summer, it would have died, for sure. Our summers are hot and humid and it never would have recovered. I think it will bounce back, although it's in shock right now and if it could speak would have some choice words for my shovel and I!

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  5. Beautiful clematis! The leaves almost 'disappear' covered by the beautiful flowers. I have never grown this plant. I think I need to add this plant as a member of my garden. Such a nice plant.

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    1. I'm not sure how well clematis would do in your tropical environment, but it's worth a try. :o)

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  6. A real take-charge project--must feel very satisfying. This is a beautiful clematis and hope it adapts well to its new digs. susie

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    1. It does feel good! This solved so many problems. I was able to better amend the soil and move the plant away from the wall, which allowed for better placement of the soaker hose. We have dry spells every summer and the soaker is a life saver. :o)

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  7. 50 lbs. of compost?!

    Your President is getting ROYAL treatment!!

    (PS - Love the comment at the end about a Windowsill on Tuesday! New meme coming?) ;-)

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    1. You know how much I love my compost! 50 lbs is one whole bag and part of another bag of Leaf Gro. I dug it into the soil and used the rest on the berm. This beauty deserves the royal treatment for putting up with such a miserable spot. As for a new meme, I'm rotten at following any of them so I'm definitely not starting a new one! :o)

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  8. I hear you about getting to that point of wanting another direction! That clematis is no joke! Those roots are insane....and I have to make note of your soaker hose fix up there! And thanks for the advice...my body has officially hit the wall and now it is time to take it as slow as I can. Happy day to you sweet lady! Nicole xo

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    1. Why is it that we wait until our bodies are screaming at us to listen? But I was the same when my kids were little. Rest and good food go a long way.

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  9. Wow your clematis sure is beautiful! It's good to know sometimes it's the right thing to be ruthless and do the deed! I have a clematis that was mowed down by a weed eater on several springs years ago. It was gone for years. I noticed a few weeks ago it had popped up again and was blooming. Very resilient ! Nice hose fix! You do make me look at gardening in different eyes!!

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    1. Gardening ain't fer wimps! Whenever I catch my skinny little 11 year old male students flexing their muscles in class, I pull up my sleeve and flex mine. There are big muscles these arms! I went from picking up babies to hauling rocks and compost and it shows. :o) I got mad at a clematis once and ripped it out of the ground and it grew back just to spite me. Madame President will be just fine. :o)

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    2. Ok I am on Team Tammy , a certified bona fide member when the Zombie Apocalyse is upon us. I can knit us camo outfits (super stylish of course in flattering colours)!! Ha!

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    3. Before the zombie's arrive, I need Michonne's sword from The Walking Dead. Of course, I'll probably just end up slicing myself up more than any zombies since I'm a klutz so I hope we get really slow ones.

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  10. The President is a pretty tough clematis, I think. I have The President growing on a trellis. By August it begins to show the stresses of our hot summers, but so does everything else, including me! I have never transplanted a clematis before, but I have a Sweet Autumn Clematis apparently planted in too much shade that has never done anything but sit. But thanks to your post, I am going to have my son dig up and transplant it to a better location this weekend!

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    1. I've transplanted several and they always bounce back, even when I think they won't. It will need lots of TLC for the next several years but it will be worth it. Their roots are much deeper than you expect so have him dig as deep as possible.

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  11. Good for you. I always remember the glory days and flinch when it is really time to get out the machete. I'll bear your example in mind next time.

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    1. I love to prune so it's no surprise I chopped this to the ground. Sometimes a fresh start is just what a plant needs. :o)

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  12. Sometimes we have to take drastic decisions. I hope this beauty will survive and grow and flower better than ever before! By the way I am very bad in taking decisions what concerns the garden, it can take ages before I know what I exactly want.

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    1. Sometimes it takes me a long time to figure out what I truly want. While other times, I decide very quickly and just start digging or pruning. My decision was drastic but I think it was the right one. I'll know for sure next spring when it does - or doesn't - regrow.

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  13. You are brave! When I cut back my Clematises, they struggled. But I guess there are different kinds of Clematis plants, right? Some benefit from pruning and others prefer to bloom on old wood. I always get a bit confused by that. In any case, I'm sure your Clematises will be lovely again next spring. :)

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    1. It's a category 2, so it blooms on old and new wood. This spot offers the morning sun and afternoon shade they like and now that the soil has been better amended and the soaker hose repaired, it should be able to thrive. The biggest shock was being lifted and replanted but clematis are tough. I think it will be ok.

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  14. Whey is that a Mason Bee Box I see above your clematis?

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    1. It is! I didn't have as many bees nest in the box this year although I'm not sure why. Last year it was packed.

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  15. Yikes....that is one stunning color! I thought I had the clematis thing down pat, but I can see that I am wrong. Now I am in search of Mr. President! I've had a miserable time with my clematis and I haven't a clue why, They are in a sunny spot, on a good trellis, I make sure there delicate little toes don't stay wet, I feed them with love and poetry. What in the bloomin' hell do they want? I've had three beauties over about ten years....is that your experience? Maybe I'm asking for too much. Maybe it's time to lower my expectations. As ordinary as it is, Jackmanii always comes through. Dullsville.

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    1. In my experience, clematis want morning sun, bright afternoon shade, and very rich, deep, moistish soil. However, the soil The President is growing in isn't moist or as rich as it would like. However, since adding all that compost, it should be happier. I have lots of clematis and don't think I have any secrets to their survival. Dig a huge hole, add A LOT of compost and stick in your clematis. It should thrive as long as it's in a sunny spot.

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  16. I like clematis but haven't had a lot of luck with it.

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    1. I'd try again. They're worth the extra effort. :o)

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  17. I leave my husband to do all the hatchet work in the garden. I am too soft hearted to pull all the old plants out. You did a good job and as my husband says, 'it will grow back stronger'.

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    1. I think it will be stronger, too. I focus on the long term rather than the short term. It will be much happier next summer although it doesn't believe me now. :o)

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  18. brave woman!
    But yes in summer those blue flowers will sing to you with JOY!

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    1. It was memories of those flowers that motivated me to bring out the shovel. It needed more than my watering can could give it. A small voice in my head says, "What if you killed it?" But a louder voice says, "What if you didn't?". It's like life - a grand experiment.

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  19. I was afraid you were going to rip the whole thing out and send it to the compost pile--I'm glad you didn't! All those beautiful blooms, I can't imagine how gorgeous it's going to be with the extra compost and a happier home. "On a Windowsill on Tuesday" sounds like a good meme to me:)

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    1. I could never do that! I love that vine too much. :o) I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next spring.

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  20. I love the final sentence about on a windowsill on Tuesday being as close as you got to the meme "In a Vase on Monday". Perhaps it is because I never manage to stick to the schedule of popular memes myself. Sometimes a garden needs a little tough love and I think that is just what you did. I am sure the clematis is in a better place now.

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    1. I'm pretty good at tough love. My children would attest to that! I like to think of it as a vine rejuvenation. :o)

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  21. What a simply gorgeous clematis and what a shame that it hasn't done so well this year....like Rose I had a horrible feeling it was going to be trashed, how wonderful that it isn't, I really hope it returns to it's former glory and at least you have the remaining flower to remind you how beautiful it is.....wish I had seen it before you cut it back as the last pic looked rather smashing to me!!!xxx

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    1. It looked like a pile of sticks stuck to a trellis. It was absolutely horrible. I didn't realize how damaged the soaker hose was so every time I turned it on it just watered the shrubs and driveway. The clematis just looked worse and worse every day. When I went to work on it, I realized the only way to fix the problem was to repair the soaker and move the plant away from the wall so I could wrap the hose around the base. To do that, I had to dig it up. It also needed richer soil so I added all the compost. If I didn't do any of that, I wouldn't be able to solve the problem and not solving the problem would torture me.

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  22. 'The President' thanks you, as does a grateful nation. But seriously, good job. Actually, this looks like a beautiful Clematis, and I need a new climber for my tuteur. Does it really keep blooming into October?

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    1. The President has my vote! It really is a wonderful, lush vine. It blooms like mad in the spring (mid-May to early June) and then sporadically throughout the summer. It throws out more flowers when it gets cool and rainy in the fall. Knowing how beautiful it is was my motivation to make such a drastic change. It will get VIP treatment until it re-establishes that massive root system.

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  23. Beautiful pictures from earlier in the year and last year. I really wish I would take action on a few more things, I'm always giving the slackers second chances when what they might really need is some tough love! I bet your clematis will be nice by late next year, and then astounding the year after!

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    1. I have little patience with slackers. It's put up or shut up for most of them unless I've put them in such a wretched spot it's a miracle they're alive, which is the category this vine falls into. After watering the driveway all summer, I shouldn't have been surprised this poor thing was such a mess. I checked on it today but it's giving me the silent treatment. So ungrateful! ;o)

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  24. Goodness you really do go wild when you make a decision. I do hope the clematis recovers as it looked so beautiful in full flower.

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    1. I can be very action oriented, for sure! Once I decide to really do something, it's hard to stop me. I think it will bounce back. :)

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  25. Once the vine gets a foothold, it really takes off. I have one in the courtyard that must be pruned back severely in spring because as I did not last year, it nearly killed roses by smothering them. Yours is beautiful; I never thought of transplanting a mature one. Sometimes impulse is just the best way to go.

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    1. I've transplanted mature clematis before and they always came back. They're much tougher than they appear. This one will get the royal treatment until it fully recovers and re-establishes a deep root system.

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  26. At first I thought you were going to burn down the house so that you could start afresh with the clematis. Your approach makes much more sense and avoids all that pesky insurance paperwork. With your great soil amendment and better irrigation, I'll bet your clematis comes back stronger than ever this spring! Happy Halloween!

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    1. I laughed out loud at this comment! So so so funny! I was so frustrated when I started chopping, if you had suggested that and given me a match this could have been a very different post. Happy Halloween to you, too! :o)

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  27. It must be a cultural thing, but I have NO clue what a 'berm ' is ! Tammy, please enlighten me !
    I was very impressed with your soil enrichment, but, lazy person that I am, I would have left it as it was, crossed my fingers, and hoped for a floriferous 2015 ! I am sure that your efforts will all pay off !

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    1. A berm is just a basin made of soil that's mounded around a plant to hold in water. The clematis is on a tiny slope and the roots had become exposed from being watered with a watering can once I realized the torn soaker hoses were watering the driveway. I'm too much of a scientist to believe in luck. It tortures me to think there's a problem in my garden I can't solve.

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  28. Hello there Tammy girl !
    Brava ! I think yu did the right thing by starting fresh and fixing some troubled soaker hose (good grief, that will be my next issue ... finding a more practical watering system other than the watering wand and I ? haha
    I planted two President clematis this past year to climb up my questionable french lilac .. hope they look as good as yours does ! ...
    Yes ... the work is finally over ... I don't think I knew how much it really stressed me out ... now? I have a load of clean up to do before the snow falls and those few special bulbs to plant .. on ward and up ward ?? LOL
    Joy : )
    PS .. the berm was a great idea ... I have to do that too for a few of my plants (kept forgetting, thanks for reminding me!)

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  29. Soaker hoses are a cheap, effective way to water everything. I use loads of them. The President is pretty tough. Yours will be beauties! Happy berming!

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  30. I've enjoyed reading all the comments and your replies. 😊. I love clematis. Due to our "shadiness," I have several in Wrong Spots. They continue to grow and blossom... Thanks to deciduous tree leaves that aren't mature until late Spring! Though the blossoms don't last long, and are not profuse in most areas, I enjoy them all! It is nice to realize their hardiness! Thanks for your post and tips.

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  31. Hi Tammy, the only way I could get clematis to look that good is if I got one in plastic. Seriously, I am very green with envy. I keep telling myself that next year, my clematis will do better and for all my coddling, care and attention, perhaps they might deign to live another seasons and not drop dead like some have in the past. Your President clematis is stunning, I hope it repays you with a tower of purple flowers next year. I hope mine repay my efforts by staying alive - that's the best I can hope for.

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  32. Love the way you described your thoughts and feelings, that is going to be a very happy clematis.

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  33. I love how you just take hold, remove, replace and redo without wasting time. Sounds like many issues were solved by your decisive action...and a nice vase was made too.

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  35. You did the right thing, and hopefully the clematis will be grateful and reward you in kind.

    I need to follow your lead and plant a clematis where it can shine. I have one on a trellis that is buried under 3 other things.

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  36. I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed for you that The President will come back stronger and better than before (if that is at all possible).
    Such beautiful blooms will surely be missed if it doesn't fight back.....it was the one plant that I was excited about meeting in your garden when next I'm there....just wish they would grow here and be happy.

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