Clematis 'Kiri Te Kanawa'
Clematis 'Kiri Te Kanawa'©Ton Hannink

Clematis of the Month for May 2008

This clematis was raised by the well known English breeder, Barry Fretwell. He named this clematis in honour of the Maori soprano singer, Kiri Te Kanawa. Kiri Te Kanawa was born in Gisborne, on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island, on 6 March 1944. She is the adopted daughter of an Irish mother and Maori father. Having won the John Court Aria Prize and the Mobil Song Quest, Kiri shot to stardom in New Zealand. After appearing in little known operas such as Delibes' "Le Roi l'a dit" and Wolf-Ferrari's "The Inquisitive Woman", Kiri received critical praise as Idamantes in Mozart's "Idomeneo". Very soon Kiri was a star. She sang at the royal wedding in Great Britain of Charles and Diana.

Clematis 'Kiri Te Kanawa' is a hybrid of C. 'Chalcedony' × C. 'Beauty of Worcester', raised by Barry Fretwell in 1986. C. 'Chalcedony' is an icy silver-blue double clematis and C. 'Beauty of Worcester' is a violet-purple double clematis. The early flowers are double, the size is 15cm (6 inches) and they are deep blue with cream stamens and slightly smaller and paler as the season progresses.

It is a magnificent variety with large, fully double, deep blue flowers on both old and new growth and double in the first and second flowering period.

The flowering period is May /June and September and the plant likes a place in the full sun or partial shade.

C. 'Kiri Te Kanawa' grows to 2-3 meters (6 to 10 feet) and is hardy in zones 4-9. The plant tolerates most soil types but needs sufficient water during spring and summer. You can light prune (Group 2) the plant so that you keep your plant in a good shape and size.

The 15 cm deep blue flowers look great on a light background or in combination with a climbing rose such as 'White Dawn' or similar. It is excellent for growing over fences, walls, trellises and poles. It can also climb over shrubs or coniferous shrubs. And it is suitable for cut flowers.

It is particularly useful for cultivation in small gardens or in containers for use on terraces and balconies.

As with all the double clematis, the flowers do not like rain and it is best to place the plant in a position where it has a degree of shelter overhead.

Ton Hannink Ton Hannink

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