Clematis 'Solidarność'

Clematis of the Month for September 2022

described by Linda Beutler

C. 'Solidarność'©Linda Beutler

It was a delight to see C. 'Solidarność' giving a good account of itself when the International
Clematis Society visited the Münster Baumschulen nursery in northwest Germany in July 2022

It has long been the tradition of Polish clematis breeders to name their hybrids in celebration of their national culture, heroes and saints, and victories both military and political. C. 'Solidarność' is no exception. The word "solidarność" can be directly translated as "solidarity" in English, and therein lays the tale.

In 1980 the Polish trade union known as Solidarność was formed in the shipyards of Gdansk. Membership quickly spread to other cities throughout the Nation as the trade union became not just an advocate for worker's rights, but a movement to free Poland from membership in the USSR. Watching from the United States, it was this inspiring Polish example that led friends and colleagues to sign our notes and memos "In Solidarity" as we formed the first labor union for the county's library employees. As President of the Multnomah County Library Union, I was buoyed by the news from Poland as the USSR attempted and failed to repress what had become a vast organization of workers who, through largely non-violent protest, withstood brutish attacks.

We don't know who created the iconic stencil with the resolute Polish flag waving from the upstroke of the N, but the graffiti symbol, in searing red, appeared everywhere. It became a worldwide message of freedom reached through community accord and non-violent resistance. To this day it shows up on tee shirts at the Warszawska airport tourist shops. No matter the tee-shirt color, Solidarność is always printed in red.

Solidarność (the movement) is widely held to be the driving force that led Poland to freedom from the USSR. Poland was the first of the Warsaw Pact nations to gain independence, beginning the domino effect that would see Ukraine, Estonia, and other clematis-breeding countries "behind the iron curtain" assert their freedom, too.

At Longwood Gardens, in the clematis trial area of the 'Idea Garden', C. 'Solidarność' flowered with C. 'Solina' in 2014.

At Longwood Gardens, in the clematis trial area of the "Idea Garden", C. 'Solidarność' flowered with C. 'Solina' in 2014.

Considering the scintillating history, it should come as no surprise that the large-flowered C. 'Solidarność' is lusciously, exuberantly red. And given its velvety sheen, one might assume its parentage is similar to that of C. 'Westerplatte', bred in Poland by Stefan Franczak at about the same time. C. 'Solidarność' is part of the cadre of earliest introductions by Szczepan Marczyński (which included C. 'Barbara', C. 'Hania', and C. 'Julka'). Several lovely reds have come from Szczepan since then, but this has been the best in both depth of color and garden-worthiness.
C. 'Solidarność' growing in a large pot in my garden

C. 'Solidarność' growing in a large pot in my garden

C. 'Solidarność' reaches its full color potential when grown in full sun

C. 'Solidarność' reaches its full color
potential when grown in full sun

In my home garden I grow C. 'Solidarność' in a large pot with a tall metal tripod. It shares its container with a small hosta and Welsh poppies (Meconopsis cambrica). In the years when C. 'Solidarność' doesn't get tip pruning of its earliest growth (which keeps it bushy), it will reach its full height of 1.5 meters, and I have to loop it back into its structure to prevent wind breakage. As you will see in the picture, my potted specimen is in too much shade, which prevents it developing its full depth of color—this varies from flower to flower—and frequently the middle of the tepals has a lighter bar. It didn't start out in this much shade, but the surrounding woody plants insist on growing. At the Rogerson Clematis Garden we have it in full sun until late afternoon, and the color is much better than mine.

C. 'Solidarność' can be pruned in any number of ways. In a container, as said before, pinching the tips of new growth in April doesn't delay the first flowering much, but does give an overall bushier effect. In the ground we choose to cut it back by half its length in February, with the first flowers opening in June. Or, you can hard prune it right back to within centimeters of the ground in February, and it will flower with the C. viticella hybrids in late spring and summer. Removing spent flowers will encourage repeated waves of flowers throughout the growing season.

It seems unique to Poland, whether the hybrid comes from Noll or Franczak or Marczyński, that any given clematis is likely to have a name offering a glimpse into their national history. You can often learn these stories by entering the clematis name into Wikipedia. What you will learn is that the Polish are an indomitable and undaunted people. No clematis better typifies this than C. 'Solidarność'.

In solidarity,
Linda Beutler
The famous graffiti stencil "solidarność" as it appears on souvenir tee shirts

The famous graffiti stencil "solidarność" as it appears on souvenir tee shirts


Linda Beutler Linda Beutler



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