I.Cl.S. - Book Reviews

Book Reviews by Members of the I.Cl.S. in Clematis International 2007

  1. Pocket Guide to Clematis - Mary Toomey
  2. A Celebration of Clematis - Kaye Heafey and Ron Morgan
  3. Clematis Gallery - Akihito Kaneko

Pocket Guide to Clematis - Mary Toomey

with Everett Leeds and Charles Chesshire

Published in 2006 by Timber Press, Inc., The Haseltine Building, 133 S.W. Second Avenue, Suite 450, Portland, Oregon 97204-3527, USA, 231 pages, over 300 pictures, ISBN 13: 978 0 88192 814 3 and ISBN 10: 0 88192 814 3, Price US$19.95 / £14.99, www.timberpress.com

Reviewed by Richard Green and Ian Lang

Pocket Guide to Clematis - Mary ToomeyWe are prepared to bet that 99% of people in a bookshop who pick up books like this will flick through them and look at the photographs first. If the photos are unappealing, the book will go straight back on the shelf. However, if there are photos which catch the eye, then the browser is likely to be drawn in. This book is richly illustrated with - at a guess - about half its printed area covered in photographs. Given that clematis colours are notoriously difficult to reproduce in print it is to the great credit of Timber Press that they have managed to reproduce so many so well. Of course, there are exceptions, but our overall impression is that there are very few poorly-reproduced photographs especially when compared with some in the mother-tome, the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Clematis from which this is derived. It is clear that great efforts have been made with this derivative to find new photographs in order to improve on the original. The striking exception to this, in our view, is the rather scrappy and unimaginative front cover.

The name 'Pocket Guide' is something of a misnomer in that you would have to have rather large pockets to fit this little baby in. Mary Toomey's reference, in the preface, to a 'mobile' guide is probably rather more apt. Happily for us, however, your large pockets will not have to be terribly deep if you wish to own this one, as it is available on the internet for under £10 / US$16.

Once the browser has had their fill of photographs, there is a great deal in the text to delight. The authors have seen fit to make a very concise but wide-ranging introduction. Although we suspect that the main aim of the book is to appeal to those relatively new to clematis, more experienced clematophiles will still find this very handy. For newcomers and old hands alike, the introduction offers a plethora of advice. It starts with tips on how to site plants in a landscape and on how to plant the clematis when you have decided where they are to go. The great bugbear of the newcomer to clematis, pruning, is dealt with concisely but thoroughly and there is even a short section on how to deal with an unknown clematis - this would be very useful for people who have perhaps inherited an established garden along with a house move. The introduction concludes with advice on general care, transplanting, growing in containers, pests and diseases, and gives a summary of the main clematis groups.

The bulk of the book is a selective list of some 300 varieties of clematis in alphabetical order, where each individual variety is clearly described in terms of habit, height, flowering periods, flower type and colour, preferred conditions, growing tips, hardiness zone and other pertinent information. It is inevitable with such a short list that some personal favourites will be missed out but it is to the great credit of the authors that they have included within that short list a wide sweep of the best of what is available from around the world, covering clematis with widely differing habits, flower types and flowering periods.

Sadly, even such a meticulously researched book occasionally lapses into generalisations like 'not-too-vigorous' and 'not floriferous': these, for example, in the description of 'Sealand Gem'. We are not convinced that exhaustive research would bear out either of those statements. We have two further niggles. The first of these is with the appendix, which includes a very odd list of nurseries around the world and, typically for a book of this kind, flatly refuses to admit the existence of that upstart newcomer, the Internet, except in the context of nursery sites. Our second is a niggle that we expressed when the authors' Illustrated Encyclopedia of Clematis was first published, that the naming convention used in the book, whilst technically sound, is not helpful to a casual user. Consider, for example, a reader who has taken the book to a garden centre and finds there a clematis called 'Wisley'. Will they find it in the book? Possibly not because, correctly, it is listed as 'Evipo001' and 'Wisley' will need to be looked up in the index. Why could not the main text have contained a one line entry "Wisley see 'Evipo001'"?

Our minor reservations should not be allowed to detract from the fact that this is a very useful little book which, certainly at internet prices, represents good value for money.

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A Celebration of Clematis - Kaye Heafey and Ron Morgan

Photography by Keith Lewis

Published in 2007 by Half Full Press, 1814 Franklin Street, Suite 815, Oakland, CA 94612, USA, 182 pages, 178 photos of Chalk Hill Clematis and floral arrangements and 162 photos of clematis, ISBN 0 9719552 6 3, US$34.95

Reviewed by Mike Warren

A Celebration of Clematis - Kaye Heafey and Ron MorganAt first glance, the format (11 inches square) of this book might indicate that it was intended for the Coffee Table. Working through it however would indicate that whilst it would be at home in such a situation, it really is part biography, part Coffee Table, part reference, an unusual combination.

The Authors are involved with Clematis for the cut-flower trade, that in itself an unusual line although they have been doing so for some time in California, I have not seen evidence that it has spread to Europe although I understand in Japan, the Clematis is produced thus.

The Flower arrangements using Clematis and some fine pieces of porcelain, glass and antiques, make for some stunning displays indeed. I would commend these illustrations as making the book a worthwhile purchase. Without a source of cut clematis stems we would have to plant more Clematis ourselves in order to have enough material to achieve such displays in our own homes, the extra plantings will no doubt please our nurserymen with the increased sales of plants!

The lack of captions with these pictures initially annoyed me, but later I found them alongside thumbnails at the back of the book. A new idea? Certainly it makes for a very clean layout.

Finally, the varieties are described, in groups, in the conventional manner. This is a book which would make a splendid gift to a Flower Arranger or a Clematis enthusiast. It would sit on the Coffee Table comfortably and might well introduce a browser or reader to the fascinating genus Clematis.

[Editor's note: The Fact Sheet for this book describes it as telling the story behind Chalk Hill Clematis, in words and pictures, as well as demonstrating the possibilities of Clematis as Cut Flowers. For information about the nursery, please visit www.chalkhillclematis.com, whilst for information about this book, please contact Half Full Press at the address above or visit www.halffullpress.com.]

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Clematis Gallery - Akihito Kaneko

Published in 2006 by SODO Publishing Co. Ltd., Mejiro LK Bldg 4-21-19 Shimoochiai, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 243 pages, approximately 225 photos, ISBN-4-434-07099-1, Price believed to be Yen 2200.

Reviewed by Fiona Woolfenden

Clematis Gallery - Akihito KanekoAnother lovely, compact (A5 sized) book from Akihito Kaneko. It contains many photographs of clematis from all over the world; not just Japanese varieties or the varieties from the UK that have been around for a number of years, but also a number from Germany and Eastern Europe of which some are less widely known than others.

The clematis are displayed in groups and there appears to be as many pictures of small flowering varieties and species as there are of the large-flowered group. Interestingly I noticed that no distinction is made throughout the picture section of large flowered clematis between early and late flowering, or light and hard prune cultivars.

There is a brief explanation of pruning but very little other text. The book is clearly meant to be a picture gallery of clematis.

Generally the quality of the photographs is excellent, with a number of pictures of clematis, often very floriferous plants, growing with roses and many close ups of small species clematis. My only two criticisms, both fairly minor, relate to colour and depth of field. Some pictures, such as 'Prince Charles', are too red and the depth of field in a few of the close up photos of smaller flowers such as 'Betty Corning' could have been a little greater.

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All information contained at this site is personal to Ken Woolfenden and
does not represent the official view of the International Clematis Society.