The first time I saw C. 'Strawberry Kiss' was on the I.Cl.S. conference to Japan in 2008. We were graciously invited to the home and nursery, Kasugai Garden Center, of Kozo & Mikiko Sugimoto. The highlight of the visit was observing the hybridization of both large flowered and small flowered clematis. Two of my favorites, which have subsequently done well in my garden, are C. 'Strawberry Kiss' and C. 'King's Dream'.
C. 'Strawberry Kiss' is now 18 feet long and has been blooming since May in my garden. It will continue to bloom through September. This charming clematis is a selection by Kozo Sugimoto from his breeding with the viorna group. The flower is the classical viorna urn shape with four thick smooth sepals fused together. The sepals begin as a darker pink at its base and fades to a softer pink at the tips, which recurve gently as the bloom ages. The margins of the sepals are a cream to greenish white color with fine hairs while the inside of the sepals continue in a whitish color. The filaments are white with yellow stamens. The solitary flowers are axillary and terminal on long six to seven inch peduncles with small bracts about one inch from the axillary node. The flower buds are ovoid in shape and colored a deep pink at base fading to a creamy white. The ribbed stems are reddish brown. The seed heads are medusa like with approximately thirty orb shaped flat achenes with persistent hairy tails.
The native species of viorna grows in limestone soils along the edges of deciduous forests. The viorna species I have seen in situ usually grow in a rocky habitat at an altitude of 1,735 feet on Mt. Currahee and 3,600 feet on Grassy Mountain. For a further review of C. viorna research the article written by Brewster Rogerson fifteen years ago for the Clematis of the Month in September, 1999.
In my garden C. 'Strawberry Kiss' is planted at the base of a large Hydrangea macrophylla, which provides support and protection for the base of the stems. The many stems travel in different directions with a few wending their way downward through a bed of iris. Other stems stretch through a large clump of tall Filipendula. With the stems stretching up to eighteen feet it is always interesting to see what flower combinations will be created. This vine has internodes up to ten inches so the leaves are sparsely occurring and not overpowering, thus making it a perfect companion for many perennials. It can be pruned to the ground in late winter, as new stems will emerge each spring. It is one of the clematis, which offers nectar, and will attract many types of bees, butterflies and skippers. It is an excellent selection for hot, humid climates.
Left - C. 'Strawberry Kiss' and the tall Filipendula
Below - C. 'Strawberry Kiss' and C. crispa
Above - C. 'Strawberry Kiss' and C. 'Inspiration'
Right - C. 'Strawberry Kiss' and bee
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