Some years ago, in his justly-respected book on clematis, Christopher Lloyd made the unlucky remark that Clematis patens, one of the prime ancestors of the large-flowered hybrids, 'had vanished, as a wilding, into thin air'. As he soon discovered, this was news in the Orient, especially to Japanese clematis-lovers, who can be found chuckling over it to this day (though the error was corrected in a later edition). In Japan C. patens grows wild in so many locations and such varying forms that in order to keep them straight it's customary now to specify their native habitat: C. patens-Akagi, C. patens-Hino, and so on. Most of the Japanese forms are white-flowered, but lavender-blue and near-yellow forms have been found there, as also in China and Manchuria. And perhaps in part because of Christopher Lloyd's remark, there is little danger that Oriental clematis experts will ever let the patens tribe die out for want of attention.
The one in the photograph above is C. patens-Toki. The photograph to the left shows members of the I.Cl.S. who attended the Conference at Sagamihara in May happily inspecting a wild population of this very clematis, some fifteen minutes' walk from the home of Mr. and Mrs. Sugimoto in Toki-City. The Sugimotos were among the organizers of the 1997 conference, and their nursery was the last stop in the tour that followed the formal meetings. Western gardeners may soon be growing some of the clematis bred there; 'Frau Mikiko', a fine purple, and the white hybrid 'Toki' -- a different plant from the species shown here -- have already found their way abroad.
Until recently gardeners in the West have had scant opportunity to grow C. patens itself -- it is only now establishing itself in lists -- but its behavior is much like that of such early bloomers as 'Moonlight,' 'Guernsey Cream,' 'Dawn,' and 'Lady Londesborough,' which are closely descended from it. Like them it can reach a considerable height, but normally it is of moderate growth and compact habit, and reacts well to container culture. It can be pruned to any desired height when the Spring flowers are past, and will usually mount a good second bloom.
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