The first time I saw Clematis 'Princess Diana' was in a walled Irish garden. Its iridescent bloom (see right) outshining all other flora, beckoned me to come closer. This luminous beauty was labeled 'The Princess of Wales'.
Upon my return to the States I began an unrelenting search for this regal specimen. During the short life of this clematis it had already under gone a name change. The name C. 'The Princess of Wales' had been used previously and so it was suggested, and accepted, that it be renamed C. 'Princess Diana'.
In reviewing numerous books and journals C. 'Princess Diana' is always described with glowing superlatives in describing her color.
Officially, the International Clematis Register describes C. 'Princess Diana' as "luminous deep slightly mauvish pink with deep pink bar, outside with white margin." Other writers have used descriptors such as vivid, vibrant, superb, glowing, stunning and brilliant.
The 2.25 inch (6 cm) flower has four tulip shaped sepals with pointed tips, which gently recurve. The sepals open slightly as the bloom matures resembling a trumpet. The creamy stamens are topped with pale yellow anthers. The light green leaves recede into the background to highlight the showy blooms.
The illustrious Mr. Barry Fretwell of Peveril Nursery in Devon, England, is a world-class breeder. He has introduced to the world some amazing clematis. Previous 'Clematis of the Month' web pages have described several of his clematis including C. ' Arabella', C. 'Rhaposdy', C. 'Jacqueline du Pré' and C. 'Caroline'. Mr. Fretwell introduced his first clematis hybrid in 1969.
One of the goals of Mr. Fretwell has been to create more variety in smaller flowered clematis. Mr. Fretwell had been enamored with the earlier texensis crosses such as C. 'Gravetye Beauty'. There had been no new texensis hybrids since the 1900's and many of the previous texensis crosses had been lost to cultivation. He wanted to create more selections.
With much patience over an eight year period the cross of C. 'Bees Jubliee' and the species texensis finally bloomed displaying a vividly colored pink trumpet shaped clematis. A luminous pink is displayed on the back of the four sepals, which maintain their shape until the sepals fall off.
He introduced C. 'Princess Diana' in 1984 under the original name of 'The Princess of Wales'. This cross also created C. 'Lady Bird Johnson' a texensis that is a deep purple red and has started blooming by mid April in my garden.
C. 'Princess Diana' a late bloomer, will flower from June through October climbing to 8 feet (2.5 m) tall. It will start blooming in May in warmer climates and reach 10 feet (3 m). If this long blooming clematis stops blooming, it can be hard pruned to encourage a second flush in the fall.
The texensis group always blooms on new wood, therefore pruning from late fall to late winter is suggested. This texensis is less prone to mildew than other texensis. The seed heads are gorgeous and persistent. The species texensis grows naturally along stream banks and edges of wooded areas, therefore some moisture with good drainage is essential. Adding gravel or coarse sand will assist.
This hybrid can be planted in sun or partial shade. In the south brown crinkly leaves will develop when daytime temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Centigrade) without accompanying nighttime cool downs. Plant them amidst a shrub or tree to camouflage the brown leaves. John and Maureen Hudson of Somerset, England who have the National Collection of texensis clematis described C. 'Princess Diana' as the best of the texensis group blooming from July to October. The Hudson's fertilize with a liquid tomato fertilizer once a month from May to August.
This easy to grow clematis has taken a place of honor on the International Clematis Society Recommended Clematis list. C. 'Princess Diana' looks spectacular in Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem'. The glossy dark green leaves provide a perfect foil for the luminous pink blossoms. The sepals echo the pink stamens of the magnolia blossoms.
Brian and Heather Cromie in Peterborough, England have trained their C. 'Princess Diana' up a tree trunk fashioning the blooms into a brilliant pink feather boa encircling the tree trunk at about 5 feet (1.75 m) in height. A vision of beauty engrained in my brain. This vivid small clematis is a natural when entwining roses, meandering through a border, floating over low conifers or restrained in a large container. C. 'Princess Diana' is sure to bring a sparkle to your garden.
[Editor's Note: The photos used for this Clematis of the Month were reviewed and additional ones inserted in October 2015 following discussion over the typical characteristics of the flower.]
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