One of the first clematis to flower in the spring is C. alpina 'Pamela Jackman' which brings a lovely sparkle to the garden as the sunlight catches the flowers dangling in the wind. The plant is easy to look after if you have well-drained soil as it grows in sun or partial shade and does not need pruning unless it gets too big; it can grow to between 2 and 4 metres (6 to 12 feet). I am growing my plant up the side of my neighbour's conifer hedge where the blue flowers look striking against the conifer foliage.
This plant should be in flower throughout the month of April in the UK, however spring is late this year so my plant only has small flower buds by the end of March. The flower buds start off pointed and hanging down. Then the sepals open and as they unfurl they seem to get rounder as they rise before flattening out to reveal the white inner skirt. It's a lovely progression from bud to flower.
My garden is heavy clay and I find that these little spring Clematis bells do not like heavy clay so I have some planted in pots. In the ground I find that they often flower for a few years and then die. Time will show whether this plant survives in my clay soil but I have been told by other Clematarians that it is one of the most tolerant varieties of heavy clay so I am hopeful. Clematis alpina plants have fine fibrous roots which, in my experience, don't like getting waterlogged. I am hoping that my neighbour's conifer hedge keeps this area drier than other parts of my garden.
C. alpina 'Pamela Jackman' has featured on the Society's Recommended Clematis list since the inception of the List. However, when I asked several years ago if anyone grew it and could they do a write up for the Clematis of the Month, I had no volunteers. I therefore resorted to buying a plant myself so I could write about it. Although my plant is only a few years old I have been pleased with the results so far.Indeed, C. alpina 'Pamela Jackman' received an Award of Garden Merit from the RHS in 2005. The RHS Trial report from 2008 comments:"Flowers consistently well.
Distinctive narrow buds.
Many small blue flowers contrasting attractively with lime green foliage."
The full 2008 Trial report can be found at https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/pdfs/plant-trials-and-awards/plant-bulletins/clematis-alpina-and-clematis-macropetala
The best photo I could find of a whole plant showing a mass of flowers (see left) is a little dark so the lighter or lime green foliage does not show up very well. This image is taken from a photo slide of a plant growing in a display garden a number of years ago.
I have also seen C. alpina 'Pamela Jackman' growing in a wall of ivy (see right) where its green foliage looked very good against the variegated ivy. Again this is an old picture taken from a slide so it is a little dark, but the colour combination was memorable.
As you have probably guessed from the name there is a connection with the Jackman family that have given us so many excellent clematis varieties. This was a selection of Clematis alpina which was raised in 1960 by Rowland Jackman of George Jackman and Son. He named it for his daughter although it was actually the second plant so named. The first was a late flowering Viticella type named around 1939 which seems to have subsequently disappeared from cultivation.
Rowland Jackman also raised C. 'Barbara Dibley', C. 'Barbara Jackman' and C. 'White Moth'. The latter is another small spring flowering clematis.
For more information about the Jackman family please see the Clematis on the Web web site at http://www.clematis.hull.ac.uk/new-clemnamelink.cfm?dbkey=15