I often try to get clematis to weave itself into supports that are less than traditional. Each year I’m faced with the same challenge. Finding myself without enough of the usual lightweight trellis devices, and entirely without fences, I’m letting necessity be the mother of invention. When clematis vines are jolted awake by warm days, they begin to come up gangbusters. They begin to extend new stems and leafy tendrils in search of an anchoring perch.
So, what to do? My ‘Marie Boisselot’ clematis is quite vigorous and always carries lush cascades of white flowers lasting for six to eight weeks. It’s growing on a metal support only five feet (1.5 m) tall, and that’s barely half the height this vine needs. In the past, I’ve inserted seven-foot (2-m) bamboo canes to extend the height, though these were still inadequate. Surveying the garage for possible new materials, a nice pile of nested tomato cages presented itself. I’ve wired two of these tomato cages to the top of the metal support and — presto! — I have a significantly taller climbing device for clematis vines. It will even be possible to attach a couple 12-inch (30-cm) -square pieces of chicken wire to the cages, providing further anchorage for those grasping tendrils. Go ahead and laugh, but this is going to work.
And I’m not finished yet. A limber pine (Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’, Zone 4) growing by the front steps has an open structure that doesn’t cast shade. This tree is a perfect stage for scampering vines, but hasn’t enough interior twigs to give grasping points for clematis. I’ve solved this problem by discreetly inserting small trellis constructions made from found twigs and thin bamboo canes, providing anchorage for the clematis planted at the base of the tree. (These are the same supports that were in the clematis pots when purchased.) Okay, admittedly it looks a bit like lackluster Christmas decorations someone forgot to put away, but soon the vines will be all over those little trellises, and the tree will be full of flowers for a couple of months. You can’t beat that.