“It takes so long for a plant to get out into the public,” said Maurice Horn, co-owner of Joy Creek Nursery in Scappoose, Oregon. “It takes an encounter to fall in love with it. You turn the corner, and there it is. Then you look up the name.”
Those moments are made possible when growers provide retailers with blooming material, according to David McCoy, owner of McCoy Family Nursery in North Plains, Oregon.
“If we can supply them with blooming material, they blow through them,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to matter what variety of vine.”
Clematis and other vines can brighten up small outdoor spaces, create privacy and endure in the garden with either blooms or evergreen foliage. Some have fragrance, while others produce edibles and train down slopes easily.
“Creating outdoor living space is becoming more popular,” noted Cody Hahnlen, sales manager of Youngblood Nursery in Salem, Oregon. “For gardeners and retail consumers, they see vines as an instant screen, for privacy, a trellis, arches and decoration.”
Let’s take a look at some of the awe-inspiring vines that fill that niche.
The Clematis Vancouver™ series bred at Clearview Horticulture in Aldergrove, B.C., Canada, is making its name in the U.S. market, where it has massive public appeal. The patented series has large flowers, lots of blooms and long bloom time.
“Any time you have a plant that breaks into profound bloom, then people want it,” Horn said.
The new Clematis Vancouver Mystic Gem blooms late spring through summer and again in late fall. A profusion of 6–8-inch flowers are pink on white with red stamens. “Mystic Gem is very interesting for its unusual color,” Horn said.
Clematis Vancouver Danielle showcases deep purple flowers on a compact, 6–8-foot vine with many buds that bloom late spring and again in fall.
It is receiving notice for big flowers that last, Horn said.
There is also pent-up interest for small-flowered clematis, and they are underappreciated for the show they provide. “I’m asked a lot about them,” Horn said. “If I had more of them, I’d be able to sell more.”
The 6–8-foot hybrid C. ‘Rooguchi’ — Horn helped introduce its breeder, Kazushige Ozawa of Japan, to the North American market — has a summer-long profusion of dark plum, bell-shaped flowers. It’s a reliable, versatile plant, not only for its different shape but also its compact size for growing in containers, as well as its hardiness in climates from Michigan to northern Florida.
Small-flowered clematis are especially suitable for plantings close to where people live and congregate, McCoy said, and add splashes of color to brighten living spaces.
For example, there’s Clematis macropetala ’Mountaindale’, which was discovered by Brewster Rogerson and is “hands down the most beautiful [variety], with dark purple stems, dark foliage and intense blue purple flowers,” McCoy said.
C. alpina ‘Constance’ is another small-flowered variety with an abundance of nodding bright pink blooms.
Its vigorous sister, C. viticella ‘Alba Luxurians’, grows slightly taller at 8–12 feet on tough vines that flower profusely, McCoy said, with green-tipped white blooms.
Despite more than 300 species of Clematis and so many uses in the landscape, often only a few get the attention they deserve.
“Everyone grows ‘Jackmanii’,” said Linda Beutler, curator of the Rogerson Clematis Garden at Luscher Farm in West Linn, Oregon. “It’s beautiful as long as you give it space, and it’s a classic, but there are other great clematis out there.”
Everybody loves evergreens
Especially for urbanites, evergreen vines are popular for creating living screens and outdoor living spaces.
Both evergreen clematis and Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine) work nicely in that role, Horn said, but Holboellia is an alternative where a sturdy structure can lasso it up.
“It clamors up with solid, dense and glossy leaves that are attractive all year round,” Horn said, “and eventually there are flowers and fruit, but not significantly.”
Hahnlen singled out the 12–15-foot Clematis × ‘Avalanche’, a bestseller in its second year at the nursery, for its deeply cut leaves, almost like a maple leaf.
Climbing hydrangeas are already popular, and an evergreen habit adds to its draw, Horn said. The 30-foot Hydrangea seemanii is a good seller, and H. integrefolia tends to hold up even better and gives a show with bronze-tinted new growth on red petioles, Horn said.
For lighting up dark places, the yellow, green and white variegated foliage is only one of several reasons why Kadsura japonica ‘Chirifu’ shines in the landscape, Hahnlen said. The medium-sized flowers on a smaller vine of 6–9 feet are creamy white and opaque with a fragrance he described as a cross between star jasmine and daphne. Plus, it’s hardy to 10 degrees.
“It’s very new and will be one of my bestsellers this fall and spring,” Hahnlen said.
“Variegation in vines is what is going to come next,” Horn said. “I’ve seen growing interest in Jasminum officinale ‘Fiona Sunrise’ with its golden foliage. We have a beautiful specimen in our garden; it’s so bright in a shady area. This year we had a golden foliage clematis, the patented Clematis alpina ‘Stolwijk Gold’ — so gorgeous! And it sold out.”
Hahnlen said the 4–6-inch foliage of Schizophragma hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’ is a showstopper with the silvery leaves and blue-green veins.
People want vines for fragrance, McCoy said, and honeysuckle sales are strong at his nursery for that reason. Their amazing durability also helps.
The early-blooming C. montana ‘Fragrant Spring’ is another plant he can’t keep stocked because it sells so fast.
“It’s scented strong like a daphne,” McCoy said. “On a sunny day, you can open the greenhouse and smell it. It’s amazing.” It has a smaller flower than other clematis, but a cascading mass of them, which makes an impact.
Clematis Vancouver Fragrant Star is pure white with red stamens and flowers in early June through summer. At a compact 6–8 feet, even as a white flower, it is a popular seller, surprising since customers generally lean toward purples, reds and bi-colors, McCoy said.
A fragrant clematis that gets skipped over is C. montana var. rubens, an old standard that is a “flawless grower,” Horn said. It’s a vigorous 25-foot climber with pink flowers, nice foliage and extreme hardiness.
“I’m always reminding people, ‘I know you want evergreen or a new clematis with cool names, but sometimes go with an old standard,’” Horn said. “This is a great variety.”
Passiflora perks up
Passiflora offers opportunities both for gardeners who are interested in the unusual, as well as for growers who are interested in a fast-growing plant that is in high demand.
Passiflora ‘White Crown’ is popular at Joy Creek. “I bring them in, and they are gone in a day or two. They are something people will take a risk on,” he said, noting that it’s important gardeners learn how to protect them.
Elizabeth Peters is owner of Grassy Knoll Exotic Plants in Rainier, Oregon, a nursery that specializes in Passiflora. The genus is huge, with more than 600 species and a lot of variety, ranging from those grown for the commercial flower industry to ones specific to certain butterfly larva.
“People are willing to pay for something unusual,” Peters said. “I can take a cutting any time of year, and in two to four weeks have it rooted, and another four weeks have good pot growth enough to sell it. And I get top dollar because they are unusual.”
Passiflora is easy to propagate, and they look gorgeous at their peak, but a drawback is that they outgrow their pot fast. On the plus side, they can fill in and cover ugly areas fast: growing up trees, habitat-focused gardening and edible landscaping.
“At my last house I had a Norway maple, and every year I would put a five-gallon pot by it and let it climb up the tree where it had big pink flowers hanging down,” Peters said. “It was definitely a showstopper, and for many Passiflora, you get flowers all summer long.”
And they are butterfly and hummingbird magnets. “For customers interested in nature, Passiflora is a big perk,” Peters said.
Although they look delicate, Peters said Passiflora are more easygoing than clematis, and the base needs no protection from heat.
Most are not cold hardy in Oregon and other northern zones as a perennial, but they can be grown as annuals. Even in frigid Minnesota, gardeners grow them as patio plants and take them in or let them die back. It’s doable because they grow and flower fast, she said.
“You can get a lot of enjoyment from them even in one year,” Peters said. “Traditionally, they were grown as shade for greenhouses and cut down in the winter.”
P. elegans is a personal favorite of Peters’s, with small but abundant fruit that bears all at once. It won’t tolerate frost, loves heat and does well in pots and containers.
Among flowering varieties, Peters recommended P. ‘La Morellina’ for its ease and constant bloom of glowing purple flowers. “It has more flowers than leaves. I send this one out to first-time growers.”
Also notable are P. ‘Lady Margaret’ for its beautiful dark red blooms on a prolific, compact plant; P. ‘Victoria’ for its repeat blooms; and P. caerulea ‘Blue Crown’ for its tolerance of cold, wet soil, flowers twice as large as the straight species, and hardiness to zone 7.
Guidelines for vines
The thing to remember with vines, everyone agreed, is that they have widely divergent habits. Placing the right vine in the right place is important.
Selling reliable growers is also necessary to ensure the trust of gardeners and landscape designers.
Other selling points include:
- Smaller vines should be situated in more intimate settings, such as urban patios and terraces.
- Do not plant more than one prolific vine per support structure.
- Heat-tolerant varieties need to be planted in extremely sunny settings.
- Cut out dead and dying parts for optimum appeal.
Following these guidelines will ensure that vines are displayed at their best to inspire awe in every setting.