Gardening where the sidewalk ends

It’s Not You, It’s Me April 14, 2009

Filed under: perennials — greenwalks @ 9:24 am
Tags: , , ,

In addition to all the showy pinks and yellows of Seattle in springtime, the stunning white canopies of Clematis armandii blossoms are currently blanketing trellises and trees in town.

Well, they are except at my house.

My sad Clematis armandii in April 2009

Ouch. We inherited this plant from the previous owner, and I don’t know what’s going on with it but every year, it has this horrible late-winter dieback issue and looks like pure hell until I prune all the dead stuff out (already worked on it some, so this sad look is actually an improvement over last month) and the new leaves come in. I have wondered if it is a site issue, as it is exposed to western winds and seems to be unhappy with January cold snaps, but I have seen others with the same orientation that are doing fine. Here’s a happy west-facer just up the street:

Neighbor's Clematis armandii on white fence

And this one is literally two houses away, on a north fence, but climbing from the inside so maybe that helps?

Neighbor's Clematis armandii on red fence

Look at all those glossy green leaves for the masses of flowers to relax on! Let’s go back to mine for a horrible contrast:

Eek - Clematis armandii foliage not looking good

You can see here that many of the flower buds on mine didn’t even open, they just literally died on the vine:

My clematis flowers mostly died on the vine

And the few that did actually open were pretty floppy and not at all fragrant, as C. armandii is supposed to be:

The few Clematis armandii flowers that actually bloomed

Enough of that hideousness! I need to either figure out what’s wrong with it and try to help it, or put something else in its place since this yearly struggle is just too depressing for words. It’s in a place where I pass by a lot every day so whatever’s there needs to be healthy and happy!

To end on a happier note, this is probably the largest vine of any type I’ve ever seen in Seattle. And it happens to be, you guessed it, another C. armandii. It’s visible from a block away, twining into its multiple hosts:

Flowering tree? Nope, Clematis armandii vine

You don’t really notice it except at this time of year, when it makes the trees and hedge appear to be exploding into white bloom.

Giant clematis covers its tree host

Here is the vine’s base – it was planted what must have been ages ago on the southwest side of its host’s trunk:

Neighbor's giant clematis at the base of its tree "host"

Neighbor's giant Clematis armandii in full bloom

Now that’s a healthy vine! Maybe I should knock on the neighbors’ door and ask for their secret…


15 Responses to “It’s Not You, It’s Me”

  1. Bonnie Story Says:

    Wow! Great post. That has to be an all-time favorite of mine! Maybe your vine is getting too much water? A neighbor in CA had one that has wrapped it’s roots around a water line and had wet feet – hers was doing similar stuff with the dying buds, brown leaves, etc…. Just an idea. Her vine’s troubles alerted her to the pipe break and when the pipe was replaced, the vine really started perking up the next year. Just throwin’ that out there! The huge one you showed is just breathtaking. I really like your blog. Bonnie

  2. RainGardener Says:

    WoW! Karen that last one is breathtaking!!! Beautiful!!! Some of them are really all over the place spreading their joy aren’t they? I hope you can figure out what is wrong with yours. Ya don’t want to pitch it yet since it is making an effort to bloom but dying on the vine. Something has to be making it do that. Wish I could help. Sure hope my Josephine goes wild someday. We moved her last fall and she’s up and growing now so I hope she likes it better where we moved her – she was an unhappy girl!

  3. Megan Says:

    Yeah, if it were me I’d do two things. Step one, move it to another location. Step two, if it doesn’t look happier the next year, take it out. I’ve had pretty good luck the last couple years with relocating things that looked sad, maybe that’ll do the trick.

  4. Grace Says:

    Hi Catherine~~ If it’s any consolation my neighbor had a good sized C. armandii creeping up their fence until it inexplicably expired. I’m thinking these vines, like daphne need things to be perfect or else they’ll turn on you!

    Wish I could help with the mystery but I’m ignorant on the subject. Keep us posted on its progress.

  5. easygardener Says:

    I had mine for years and suddenly it started to look like yours. It simply faded away year by year. There was less and less new growth and fewer flowers. It was too big to move. Cutting back ruthlessly encouraged new growth for one season only then it started to die again. I couldn’t save it!
    I hope yours does better.

  6. Loree Says:

    You have certainly made me feel better! Walking around our neighborhood I see so many beautiful, overflowing with flowers, vines of Clematis armandii and I come home to… nothing. One of mine died this winter (I’m in Portland) and the others look ok (leaves look healthy) but didn’t produce a single flower. I thought I was the only person who couldn’t make this vine happy! I may have to do what Megan suggested and move ’em to a different location.

  7. Chloe M. Says:

    Lovely post!

    I think checking for damp feet (the suggestion of the first commenter) sounds like a really good idea. The pictures suggest some sort of fungal problem. I know Clematis in general need pretty good drainage….

    Chloe M.

  8. Gail Says:

    I tried to grow it in my Nashville garden and it would have none of it! I hope you can figure out what it needs…I think it needed sharper drainage here. gail

  9. This creeps over my fences in spots, too. However, I can’t help you with the rx to fix it! I’m glad you are trying to help it, though!

  10. Catherine Says:

    Mine looks just like yours. The flowers are tiny compared to usual and hardly any have opened. This is its worst year, I’m blaming it on the winter. I’ll be blaming the winter for all my garden problems this year 🙂
    That one is amazing, I bet it smells really good there too.

  11. Well, erm, you’re right. I was thinking that it didn’t look too bad…until I saw the other pics.

    I don’t know anything about clematis, though–it won’t grow well here at all. Sorry I can’t suggest anything. 🙂

  12. jgh Says:

    I wonder if it’s some kind of fungus? My clematis are having a very slow start this year.

  13. Cynthia Says:

    What a pretty vine Karen, it’s a shame it is not doing so well for you. I am not at all familiar with growing this but could it be something with the soil. Whether too wet as previous comments mentioned or maybe a deficiency?

    Hope you can get to the bottom of it since it appears to be rather well established. Good luck!

  14. Racquel Says:

    I wish I could help, but I’ve never grown this type of Clematis before. The flowers are very similar to my Sweet Autumn Clematis though. Hopefully some of the other suggestions you’ve received will help revive this beauty. The last photo is glorious!

  15. pabodys Says:

    How is your Armandii doing these days? I was just reading that they like their roots in the shade, not the sun…. Maybe that would help, along with keeping its feet dry? Best of luck!

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