C. 'Hanajima'
C. 'Hanajima'

Clematis of the Month for August 1997

Though it seems to be the plant most often called bush clematis in nursery lists, C. integrifolia is only one of the several herbaceous species that develop gradually into free-standing clumps, instead of climbing as most of the familiar clematis do. But it is the best-known of the non-clinging species, and a reliable element in countless plantings, where its stalks find whatever support they can and may even lie on the ground, until suddenly in midsummer (if not earlier) they turn straight upward and bear their graceful blue bells.

Blue? Yes, originally, but the species is variable enough to have presented us with other forms that range in color from white and pink to blue-purple. These are sold under cultivar names such as 'Alba' and 'Rosea' and 'Caerulea,' though it is not clear that the plants so labelled are all fixed clones. (In even a small sowing of integrifolia seed there are likely to be minor variations in the character or color of the flowers, and no known law can keep enterprising growers from choosing to apply a new or well-known name to any one of them.) Fortunately, almost any integrifolia, whatever its name, is sturdy enough to give a good account of itself.

Some noted breeders of clematis have taken a hand with the species, especially in the last twenty years or so, and have created a number of desirable cultivars that are only now beginning to be widely available. Some of these, like Kazushige Ozawa's 'Hanajima,' with its small size and dainty amethyst-pink flowers, were achieved via repeated selection from seedlings; others, like the striking deep-pink 'Alionushka' from the Ukraine, with both stems and flowers built on a larger scale, were the result of hybridizing. If it seems at all odd that a 'bush' clematis like integrifolia can be readily mated with a member of the vining contingent, we have only to recall that the first clematis hybrid ever recorded, C. × diversifolia 'Hendersonii', was produced from a cross between C. integrifolia and C. viticella. There have been many examples since that first one in 1835.

Depending on local gardening conditions, mature integrifolias in general may attain heights of anywhere from twenty inches to three feet, (.5m to 1 m) though a few like 'Rooguchi' and the Canadian hybrid 'Blue Boy' should grow much taller. If it seems their summer bloom has given out early, they can be cut back rather sharply and should come into flower again before frost. On the other hand, if they cannot easily be reached for a pruning, the late bloom will still occur, though it may string out and be relatively sparse. As a group these are very adaptable plants, and need nothing more than standard care for clematis.

Brewster Rogerson

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