Clematis 'Dawn'
C. 'Dawn'©Berit Kristine Østby

Clematis of the Month for November 2005

Clematis 'Dawn' belongs to the early flowering group (patens). According to The International Clematis Register and Checklist 2002 the description is:-

Flowers 10-16(-20) cm across, slightly scented. Sepals (6-)8, light pink (Orchid Purple HCC 31/1)(76C) to pale purple-pink (Mineral Violet HCC 635/2-3), paler at base, fading to nearly white, deeper towards margin, sometimes with greenish or reddish bar, outside with greenish yellow (Podgreen HCC 061-061/1) bar, 6-8 x 3-3.6 cm wide, elliptic or obovate, blunt or apiculate, overlapping. Filaments white tinged with green, purple-pink at top; anthers purple to wine-red; pollen white. Fruit-heads persistent. Deciduous climber with stems 1.8-3(-4) m. Leaves ternate, or rarely simple; leaflets ovate, hairy, often with purple margin, bronze in spring. Flowers in May-June on previous year's growth, again in July-October on currents year's growth.

C. 'Dawn' was originally named C. 'Aurora', and was hybridized by a Swedish plantsman, Tage Lundell, about 1960. It is assumed to be a cross between C. 'Miss Bateman' or C. 'Moonlight' and C. 'Nelly Moser'. Later it was introduced by Treasures of Tenbury in England in 1969, but then under a new name, C. 'Dawn'. The reason for this was that the name Aurora had already been used for a cultivar raised by Noble about 1877, and thus could not be used again. However, the name has the same meaning: Aurora was the name of the Roman goddess of dawn. The name is very suitable for such a delicate flowering plant.

C. 'Dawn'©Berit Kristine ØstbyC. 'Dawn' has always been one of my favourites among clematis, for two reasons. When I started my interest in clematis, way back in 1975, as a novice with a new garden to plant, I happened to see a climbing plant with beautiful flowers growing at a wall (C. × jackmanii, of course), and decided to grow it in my garden. I also found that there was a lot more to this plant group than could be bought in Norwegian nurseries, and my appetite was wetted for more of these interesting plants. Through our local gardening club I received the address to Magnus Johnson in Sweden, and wrote him a letter. That was the beginning of a long friendship, and I still have a pile of his nicely handwritten letters with advice on which clematis to select in a harsh climate, and how to grow them. After sorting out the formalities, I was at last the proud owner of a few new clematis, which could not be obtained here. And amongst them was 'Dawn'.

The story has a continuation: After a few years Magnus lost his 'Dawn', and I was able to send him cuttings from my plant, which he managed to root and grow on. Then I moved to another garden, and had to leave quite a few of my plants behind. And once more I had a C. 'Dawn' sent from Magnus, now from the stock of "my" plant, and that's the one I have today.

Second, but not least, based on my experience 'Dawn' is one of the hardiest plants in its group. And that is a quite important quality if you want to grow plants from the early large flowering group in Norway. In our climate the rule is that this group will die back during a long, cold winter. After cutting away dead wood in the spring, there is usually not much left for the early flower show. As this group also has a very late second bloom, it will never give its best. That is of course why the late large flowering group of clematis is preferred; they will give a good display despite freezing back. But — 'Dawn' is different. It is very hardy, and even with no winter protection it has only minimal winter damage, not enough to destroy the beautiful spring display.

As the flowers fade badly in strong sunlight, a half shaded location is the right place for it. I have even grown it on an open north side, with satisfying results (no winter damage and many flowers). When the flowers open in the spring, they first will have a green hue. But with the warmer weather, they change to light pink purple, which then fades to almost white (how fast depends on the situation). But I enjoy my 'Dawn' tremendously every spring. Beautiful and easy going!

Berit Kristine Østby Berit Kristine Østby

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