What Kind of Clematis Are You?

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Nelly Moser Clematis

In prep for the start of our 48-hour retreat tonight, yesterday I went into massive planning/ research mode, wanting to make sure I’d have plenty of ideas in my brain all ready to grow into actual scenes. My biggest fear for this campout is that I’ll get writer’s block and the whole time will go to waste!

But already the planning/ research is paying off. This morning I woke up with scenes practically jumping out of my head. Luckily I keep a pad of paper by my bed and I quickly wrote down the ideas in all their fantastic detail so that I’m ready to start drafting those new scenes the moment I open my laptop at the condo tonight.

And can I just tell you how great those moments are? Usually writing is such a S-L-O-W process for me. I rarely have scenes come to me so easily, let alone three or more at once!

And it’s made me think of my vines.

Last summer, I looked at every vine at the nursery when deciding what to have growing up our pergola. Many vines get super thick and end up sort of overwhelming the trellises, so I decided on the delicate clematis vines. I had four trellises, needed four vines, and the nursery only had four large (5′) clematis left (the others were only 18″ high — that would have taken forever to get up the 10′ high pergola): a Nelly Moser, a Sweet Autumn, and two dark purple (one Jackman Superba and one Etoile Violette, but I have no clue which is which).

Sweet Autumn Clematis

It’s so hard to know a plant’s behavior until you’ve observed it all year round (sort of like people tell you to be sure and date someone through all four seasons before you commit to marriage), so I’ve been fascinated to see how the clematis have started the process of coming back to life this spring.

Not that I didn’t do my research. I learned that Nelly Mosers flower on old growth, like lilacs, while the others flower on new growth, like butterfly bushes. That meant that I left the dead-looking Nelly Moser vines alone while chopping the others down to about four feet high (I’m even more brutal with the butterfly bushes: those I chop down to 8″ — and as if saying, “I’ll show her,” they grow taller and fuller every year because of it).

Anyhow, here’s what’s happening now. The Nelly Moser turns out to be a modest, cautious vine. It poked out just a sprinkling of buds all over, except toward the bottom, where it left woody legs. Each little bud came out at the same time as the other vines, but the Nelly Moser vines have only grown an average of 4″ each.

The Sweet Autumn, on the other hand, prefers to start from the bottom, apparently. I left a few of its limbs long (about 8′ high) just to see how it would work out, but the Sweet Autumn apparently isn’t into last season’s remains at all. It only cares about new growth, all in one massively tangled clump, averaging 20″ long so far.

The purples have been the sprinting champs so far. Buds appeared at every crook from the bottom to the top, they’ve grown straight up in a very orderly, efficient fashion, and they’ve averaged 40″ of new growth (again — all the vines got their buds at the same time). The down side has been that with all the frosts and snow we’ve had, the purples have turned out to be the most fragile. About a fourth of their new stems have withered at the top because of the cold.

So, after way more information on clematis than you wanted, which kind are you? This morning felt like a purple day, ideas just climbing so fast. Most days feel like Nelly Moser days: painfully slow. Other days my story ideas feel as tangled as the Sweet Autumn.

But the bright side of having different vines is that they all flower at different times. Nelly Mosers get HUGE pink flowers in late spring, the purples will bloom through the summer, and the Sweet Autumn fits its name.

Stories all bloom at different times and in different ways. I’m just hoping, HOPING that this will be a purple weekend, but without too much frost damage.

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7 responses »

  1. I loved this post. Just getting into flowers and planting this year – I kill way more than any one person should be allowed, but I have my fingers crossed. It seems as I’ve become more interested in not killing all things green and flowery, all I notice are plants and flowers so this post was like a big, “hey, how’s it going” – a great break in my workday.

    To answer the question – I’m hopelessly stuck in Nelly Moser days. The last time I even dared to open the Word file of my book …well actually I can’t remember. Think about it daily, hourly…just can’t make anything bloom.

    I do hope you get your purple weekend! 🙂

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    • Totally understand that feeling. But I think the Nelly Mosers are the prettiest of the three flowers, so that gives me hope that sometimes the slow stories will turn out to be the most beautiful!

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    • Thanks! As you can tell, I’m big on gardening metaphors myself. And I can’t take credit for the three pics with flowers. My vines haven’t gotten to that point yet. 🙂

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  2. I have to say, I love your garden! Even if those flowers aren’t from it. My yard needs some serious inspiration.

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  3. Pingback: Pin Your Interests « All About the Words

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