Clematis 'Zorero' I ARED ROBIN

Clematis of the Month for March 2013

C. 'Zorero' I AM ® RED ROBIN©Deborah Hardwick

Like many clematis I have coveted and selected for my collection, I fell in love with clematis cultivar C. 'Zorero' from photographs and the engaging trade designation I AM® RED ROBIN. I was fortunate to import this clematis to the USA, along with other selections from breeder Wim Snoeijer, in 2010, from the Netherlands. Raised in 1998, the clematis was introduced and registered by J. van Zoest B.V. in 2005.

C. 'Zorero' I AM ® RED ROBIN©Deborah HardwickIn addition to the distinctive beauty of the flowers and foliage, this clematis has some interesting features and assets to both the gardener and the nursery trade.

As clematis enthusiasts we all tend to speculate on the parentage of clematis hybrids when that information is withheld as the breeder's intellectual property. In the case of this clematis it does not take much imagination to see the genetic influences.

The flower buds are as compelling as the flowers, with deep red, glossy globes attracting the eye as the plant prepares to bloom. The flowers open showing the strong, often spinose 'shoulders' one associates with C. chiisanensis or C. koreana plants. The deepest coloring is at the base of the flowers, which emerge on dark stems. The coloring of the flowers is somewhat variable, with the darker portions of the 4 shiny sepals fading as beautifully as a couture fabric to a soft yellow, diminishing to apiculate, slightly recurving tips. Just gorgeous!

Blooming is later than many atragene cultivars, meaning that we are more likely to be outside enough to fully enjoy the plant in flower. To nursery retailers, this species has the potential to extend the offering of early flowering clematis. Like other clematis of this type, the plant is somewhat remontant; the bloom span listed in the second supplement to the 2002 clematis register and checklist as (April) May, June, July and August. My own experience in growing C. 'Zorero' supports this, with flowering occurring on both old and new growth. The potential for late spring and repeat flowering on young plants make it a delightful addition to the garden.

C. 'Zorero' I AM ® RED ROBIN seedheads©Deborah HardwickThe plant is very floriferous, with flowers and flower buds at the same time. Many atragenes produce only one flower on each peduncle, with an individual flowers lasting 2 to 3 days. C. 'Zorero' produces multiple flowers on each peduncle with individual flowers lasting as long as 7 to 10 days. The sepals are up to 5 cms long, 0.9 to 1.5 cms wide, with filaments white to purplish, anthers white, with persistent, fluffy fruit heads.

In a conversation with breeder Wim Snoeijer, he indicated that selection of atragene cultivars is for longer lasting flowers, and a longer flowering season. Plant size, foliage qualities, and other traits are also considered.

C. 'Zorero' I AM ® RED ROBIN©Deborah HardwickThe foliage on C. 'Zorero' is a healthy mid green color, leaves ternate with leaflets irregularly toothed. Fall foliage color can be quite distinctive.

Another advantage of the plant is the more compact size (1.5 to 2 m) of the plant compared to many other atragene cultivars. This, along with the need of a free draining soil, makes it a good choice for growing in a large container. In 2010 my plant got off to a slower start in the location I had selected due to root competition and other factors, and I have since moved it to a container.

If the plant needs tidying up, while it is a type 1, one might wait until the potential bloom span of the plant ceases, say late August, instead of rushing to tidy it up after the first flush of blooms. The flowering in spring will come on both new growth and old and by the following May the plant should have plenty of growth for early blooms.

This plant would stir interest in early blooming clematis if it were offered more widely in the USA. We tend to underappreciate atragene plants in the garden here in America, and the features of the cultivar C. 'Zorero' I AM® RED ROBIN should convince many to grow it.

Deborah Hardwick Deborah Hardwick

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