Making more clematis supports

Judith Adam

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Clematis Marie-Boisselot (Photo by Brendan Zwelling)
Clematis Marie-Boisselot (Photo by Brendan Zwelling)
Clematis Marie-Boisselot (Photo by Brendan Zwelling)

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.

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2 thoughts on “Making more clematis supports”

  1. I have clematis shoots growing all over the ground surrounding the parent plant. There are dozens. Can I transplant them (now late May – Northern Hastings County) or do I leave them as is (which means they will have no support)?

    I have never seen this before and am flummoxed.

  2. Hello, Debbie: There are many vines and some are more aggressive than others, but ideally we do not want any vine climbing to the top of our trees. If the maples are healthy to begin with it should not be much of a problem, but they will compete for sunlight and nutrients. This can make photosynthesis a challenge and the health of the trees will decline if this is an issue. The maples have a much more extensive root system than the vine and will always win when it comes to moisture. So to answer your question, no, the vine is not living off of the tree but it is using it as a source to climb and reach for sunlight. Since the vine is all the way to the top of your maple it may be difficult to get it all out depending on how tall your trees are. Cutting it back and digging up the roots is the only way to get rid of the vine without damaging the tree. Continuously cutting it back may eventually kill the vine due to lack of sunlight but digging up the roots will ensure that the vine is removed. Avoid spraying since this will damage your maple trees.


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