For May, the Clematis of the month is C. 'Evipo097' KITTY™. Coincidentally, I obtained the plant last year in May while on a routine business trip to the state of Connecticut. Because I have a large collection of Clematis and rarely find anything new at retail nurseries here in the USA, I do not have the habit of frequenting bricks and mortar to check and see what Clematis are available. On this trip, I needed to buy a gift for my host. I decided to buy an ornamental houseplant, and looked for a florist or nursery. The closest was neither a big box or a traditional nursery. It looked like it was what might have been a gasoline station, that was now selling commodities to landscapers. I quickly selected a colorful plant for the gift, then ... what the heck, wonder if they have any Clematis plants? I spotted a few Clematis on one of the tables. They looked well grown and large and of course I went over to check the tags. I was amazed that one of them had a official Evison tag and was for a plant named "KITTY" that I had never heard of. WOW! I knew this plant was not available in the USA, and of course snatched it up, not bothered by the fact that I would be flying home with it the next day.
It stood about a meter tall in the nursery pot, fully budded with a few luscious medium large white blooms that were just opening. The foliage was substantial on the plant, by which I mean thick and not easily damaged, resilient may be a more fitting adjective. I could tell immediately that I would fall in love with the plant. Of course, I had to cut the plant down and shake some the medium off the roots to bring it home, so I took the time to arrange some of the flowers in water. They were far too pretty to be put into the trash. After I got home, I contacted Raymond and asked him how "KITTY" could be on a gas station landscape store table. Turns out it was a plant that had been test grown in the Northeast, and the grower must have liquidated the test plants through someone who sold plants to small nurseries. My lucky break to stop in that day. A year later, when it was time to write about C. 'Evipo097' KITTY™, I contacted Raymond again for more specifics. He reported that the plant was raised "8 or 9" years ago, in Guernsey, as part of the Evison Poulsen breeding program, and has been in various trails since that time. The plant was selected for the compact size and the free flowering capability. "Brilliant for growing in a container/pot for the terrace or balcony or even a window box." The very attractive foliage is a bit off green the finest rim of bronze around the margin. The foliage shows up well in the garden, matching RHS color 137A. Stems are reddish brown, and the leaves are entire, simple and ternate, both lobed and unlobed at the bottom. A little waviness to the margin adds further interest. The internodal distances, just 6 to 7.5 cm along with the smaller leaves, make a very attractive petite plant. The early greenish tinge to the flowers matures to a very pure white with at least 6 sepals. Reddish anthers add contrast. Very pretty Kitty. This spring when C. 'Evipo097' KITTY™ began growing, there were some weather setbacks which seemed to stall the growth a bit. I was concerned and refreshed my memory on the size that the plant is documented as reaching, and found that it would be about 1.5 meters in height. Right now, as we ramp up to a period of blooming, I am rethinking my decision to plant it in the ground vs a display container. At the end of April, C. 'Evipo097' KITTY™ is only 0.5 meters tall in the garden in a front of the border position and is already budding up. The diminutive size trend in Clematis is something that Japanese breeders, and Evison, seem to be leading the way on. With that in mind, I looked at the breeding history of Evison's smaller, compact or "patio" Clematis. The earliest seems to be C. 'Evipo042' FLEURI™ which was raised way back in 1994-1995. Between then and 2008 when C. 'Evipo097' KITTY™ was raised there was only C. 'Evipo040' CHEVALIER™ the same year, C. florida 'Petite Anna' in 2000 followed by C. 'Evipo030' BIJOU™ in 2003. I could find no smaller Evison Clematis until C. 'Evipo097' KITTY™ in 2008. Of course, following that, around 2010, there have been a plethora of compact Clematis released by Evison, many of which are receiving rave reviews from gardeners. For size reference, C. 'Evipo097' KITTY™ should be about the same size as C. 'Evipo042' FLEURI™. There are really not many whites in the diminutive size, so this plant has a lot to offer the any gardener or garden situation. To date, C. 'Evipo097' KITTY™ is being sold in the U.K., and soon will be available in the rest of Europe and the U.S.A. Raymond also shared that C. 'Evipo097' KITTY™ was named for an inspirational young woman who, at age 14, was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia. Thanks to the research work of the Antony Nolan Trust her life was saved. He was excited to share that his year C. 'Evipo097' KITTY™ is being launched at the Chelsea Flower Show, and that Kitty herself will be attending the show. A percentage of Raymond's royalties from all the C. 'Evipo097' KITTY™ sales globally will be gifted to the Antony Nolan Trust to help the research with blood cancers and disorders. Finding this out, I loved the plant even more.
C. 'Evipo097' KITTY™
Editor's note: Deborah Hardwick has also told me that she is very successful using C. 'Evipo097' KITTY™ as a cut flower.