Clematis 'Will Baron' is one of the earliest of the large-flowered spring bloomers to open in my Seattle garden, usually in May. Each year it races with C. 'Guernsey Cream' to unfurl the first flower. Sometimes one wins by a day or so; sometimes the other. Every once in a while C. 'Fair Rosamond' or C. 'Asao' will give them a run for their money.
This clematis is a Canadian introduction named for Will Baron, one of the founders of Clearview Horticultural products in British Columbia. It is hardy to US Hardiness Zone 4, which can be as cold as -30°F to -25°F (-34°C to -31°C), makes sense since it was born in Canada!
The color is a lovely shade of blue-violet that my camera finds elusive, often forcing me to adjust the hue on my computer to try to make the color true. One time, when I photographed it from the back, I was able to get really close to the actual color straight off the camera — I guess the lower light was just right for my camera that day, but most of the flowers were facing the other way! The vine can climb as high as 8 or 10 feet (around 3 metres).
The large flat blossoms of C. 'Will Baron', 4 to 7 inches (10 to 18 cms) in diameter with seven or eight smooth-edged tepals, have hints of bright pink in the edges that look lovely with the overall blue color. The cream stamens round out an excellent color scheme. The gappiness of the blooms sometimes reminds me of C. 'Mrs. Cholmondeley'. The back sides of the tepals have a pale stripe.
In my garden C. 'Will Baron' and Rosa 'Buff Beauty' make a lovely combination on an arbor, with the clematis using the rose for a leg up. They bask in morning sun, a bit less each year as my redbud tree continues to grow and spread. The rest of the day they get bright light with some dappled sun from the back side of the arbor.
If I dead head the clematis or cut it back a bit after blooming, I am sometimes blessed with a few flowers in September.
One year, when we had a particularly dark and dreary spring with almost no sun at all, the first flower opened green. I was horrified, thinking my clematis had contracted some dread disease. Fortunately, this phenomena is a normal occurrence for early blooming clematis that get little or no sunlight. Succeeding flowers were normal because the sun decided to come out of hiding.