Clematis 'Niobe'
C. 'Niobe'©Ton Hannink

Clematis of the Month for December 2010

Clematis 'Niobe' was one of the first dark red clematis and quickly became very popular. At that time there was no other large red clematis and everyone was surprised when they saw this one. C. 'Niobe' was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

C. 'Niobe' was raised by Władysław Noll from Poland in 1970. The parentage is unknown but, as with all other red-flowering clematis, C. 'Niobe' has the American native, Clematis texensis, somewhere in its parentage. Jim Fisk of Fisk's Clematis Nursery, Suffolk, England introduced this clematis in the British Isles in 1975.

C. 'Niobe' grows up to 2-3 metres using leaf petioles to attach itself to supporting structures. The flowers are 12-15 cms in diameter. The flowers are almost black in their first stage, but then they mature to a deep dark red that is absolutely extraordinary. The 6-8 sepals are broad at the base and taper towards the tips. The butter-yellow anthers have a great contrast with the colour of the sepals. The plant is good for cut flowers.

C. 'Niobe'©Ton HanninkThe flowers appear from late spring to early autumn. The plant grows well on a sunny and half shaded position and under these conditions the flowers have the best colours.

C. Niobe needs pruning only when first planted to increase the amount of canes. You can hard prune in late winter if necessary; however, in doing so you will lose the early flowers that bloom on old wood. New stems from the hard pruned old wood will produce flowers later in summer. To avoid losing early blossoms, hard prune half of the stems and allow the other half to bloom early.

You can grow this clematis in a container, or winding its way through medium-sized shrubs. For this dark coloured clematis you should choose shrubs with light green or yellow leaves to enhance the contrast. You can train the vine to trail on the ground; when it is in bloom, it makes a stunning ground cover. You can place this clematis against a wall, trellis or fence.

C. 'Niobe' is hardy in zone 4 5 6 7 8 9.

My experience with this clematis is that I did not have many flowers in the first years because the plant had not the best position in my garden. It was too dry and missing enough fertilizer - but it was one of my first clematis. For good growth the plant needs good soil and, during spring and summer, enough water and nutrition. C. 'Niobe' is a very healthy plant and can be used in every garden.

Ton Hannink Ton Hannink

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