Clematis 'Countess of Lovelace'
clematis 'Countess of Lovelace'

Clematis of the Month for June 1997

In late Spring and early summer it is time for the double and semi double clematis to have their turn. Everyone knows a gardener who 'doesn't like' double-flowered clematis, but such a verdict really deserves an inquiring eyebrow, for the doubles are a numerous and very individual race. They come in different shapes and textures and sizes. For every one that is rounded, like 'Duchess of Edinburgh,' there is another that is spiky, like 'Teshio.' For every one that is flamboyant and multi-layered, like 'Vyvyan Pennell,' there is another that is a marvel of elegant filigree, like 'Yukiokoshi.' And every one of them (along with the semi doubles) is capable of doing something new and surprising in response to odd patterns in the long-range weather.

Doubling is not some late development in the breeding of clematis. It was in the mix from the start. This very cultivar, 'Countess of Lovelace,' came from the Jackman nursery within ten years of the birth of C. x Jackmanii. This year it is approximately 126 years old, and in no danger of giving out.

Like most of the tribe, 'Countess of Lovelace' has its double flowers in the late Spring, on wood of the previous year. (Trimming, as with the other varieties that have their main bloom in the Spring, should occur soon after that bloom is past.) Later in the season its flowers are single, the same light lavender-blue as before, but with the central mass replaced by six long, narrow tepals. Since the early blossoms are fairly heavy, it is a good idea to give the plant the support of a host or some careful tying-in, to prop the flowers up and keep the stems from breaking. All the doubles and semi doubles appreciate sun in the Spring, though in severe climates they may need some protection from full sun or high winds.

(There is an American cultivar called 'Mrs. P.T. James' that closely resembles this one. At its best it is perhaps even finer, the Spring flowers being perfect rosettes. But, alas, it is seldom at its best, being of rather weak constitution, and gardeners with a choice between the two will have a much more tranquil life with the Countess.).

Brewster Rogerson

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