Clematis 'Mayleen'
clematis 'Mayleen'

Clematis of the Month for April 1997

Though they have limited tolerance for extremes of cold and heat and put on but one big bloom a year, the montanas are among the most loved of clematis wherever they can be grown. And the reasons are simple: they are big (20-30 feet), strong, and quick-growing, but can be headed back if circumstances require it; they put on a spectacular outpouring of bloom in the Spring; and the flowers of most of them are deliciously scented. Favourite uses: to climb tall trees, spread out along walls and fences, and hide stumps or other potentially unsightly features in a landscape behind a curtain of healthy foliage and that luxuriant early bloom.

Most of our montanas come from one or the other of two well-known Asian forms, the species itself, C. montana, and the closely related C. montana var. rubens. Gardeners familiar with both tend to think the main distinction between them is that the flowers of montana are white and those of rubens are pink, but the name rubens really points to another difference: the foliage of C. montana is of a fresh green colour in early Spring, whereas the new stems of montana rubens have a hint of red in them and the young leaves are bronzed. 'Mayleen,' a chance seedling, derives from this second strain.

It was introduced in England by the Fisk nursery in 1974. What distinguishes 'Mayleen' from other popular rubens cultivars is the fullness of the flowers, which are larger and tend to overlap more than most, and the lovely modulation of the colouring, from soft pink in the centre to pale at the margins. Unfortunately, in the present primitive state of technology our photograph cannot convey the delightful fragrance of the flowers.

A word more about the montana heritage. It may not matter to gardeners, but just in case it matters to anyone, we add that 'Mayleen' and most other named cultivars of "montana rubens" are a few steps away from the original rubens. As with some other important clematis -- C. armandii and C. lanuginosa come to mind -- rubens was in such demand from its first appearance in the trade that some growers helped themselves ( if not the purists among us) by offering seedlings of it under the label of rubens itself. Since there are several possible reasons why seedlings of a plant as sociable as a clematis may not "come true"-- though the results may be notable in themselves -- it did not take long for the exact descent to become imponderable. So when we speak of 'Mayleen' as a rubens cultivar, we mean only that it has the pink flowers and the bronze coloured youthful foliage that m. var. rubens originally brought onto the scene.

Brewster Rogerson

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