Clematis 'Sizaia Ptitsa'

Clematis of the Month for February 2017

described by Deborah Hardwick

C. 'Sizaia Ptitsa'©Deborah Hardwick

Clematis 'Sizaia Ptitsa' holds a unique place in the sequence of hybrids that started with C. × 'Durandii' in 1870. A long period without new varieties of hybrids with similar genetics was broken in the 1960's with C. 'Sputnik', and next to follow was C. 'Sizaia Ptitsa' in 1967. Therefore, it is one of the oldest hybrids of its type that, along with C. × 'Durandii', is still going strong in global distribution.

The hardest thing about growing Clematis 'Sizaia Ptitsa' is pronouncing the name. In 2009, when I first obtained my plant, it was recommended to me that saying "slice of pizza" very fast might allow you to "fake" the pronunciation, but I never had the nerve to try that. Therefore, when I gave people a tour of my garden, I would just refer to it as an amazing integrifolia and large flowered hybrid (without using the name of the plant) and let it go at that!

C. 'Sizaia Ptitsa'©Deborah HardwickNow, it's 2017 and I realized when I sat down to write this article, that I STILL did not know how to pronounce it, so my first step was to email my friend Szczepan Marczyñnski about a phonetic pronunciation of "Sizaia Ptitsa". Ever the perfectionist, Szczepan quickly responded that he would be happy to help, but asked that we speak on the phone so I could hear the phonetics as he pronounced it.

After listening to him slowly pronounce it, I noted "Seez aya P'teet sa" and repeated that back until we were both satisfied that my phonetic letters gave me a good pronunciation.

Now that I can pronounce it, I will make sure to point it out with the name from now on. It is always showing well in the garden and is a plant that deserves to be pointed out. Raised in the Ukraine by M.A. Beskaravainaja, who has at least 48 named cultivars to her credit. I found it interesting that 1967 was an amazingly productive year for her, with other notable clematis also raised the same year. These include C. 'Nikolai Rubstov' and C. 'Pamiat Serdtsa' to name just two that are still in good distribution and beloved around the globe.

C. 'Sizaia Ptitsa' has flowers that in my experience are the largest of the blue, non-vining genre of good sized plants from integrifolia genetics. The plant is remontant and the foliage seems almost bullet proof to withstand anything the garden can throw at it in terms of weather, a bit of neglect or the like. The sepals are somewhat gappy and twisted, giving an almost spider like appearance at times to the distinctive and deep violet blue flowers. The reverse of the sepals is also distinctive with grooved and more deeply colored midrib. Of course, with a seed parent of C. × 'Durandii' and pollen parent of C. 'Candida', perhaps the plant's fantastic qualities are not so surprising.

Clematis plants that die back completely are so easy care, as the gardener can choose to cut it hard to the ground in the late fall, late winter or early spring all to a good result with new shoots readily appearing and making their way despite early spring cold snaps or rainy periods. Protecting those shoots from slugs or snails is the only special care perhaps that this type of cultivar needs. The new shoots soon unfurl sets of pinnate eaves, simple and mostly unlobed, with an absence of brachts or petioles. The first flowers are terminal, then the plant becomes a bloom machine with flowers forming from new growth on the axils.

The habit of the plant is sprawling, although the stems do not mind being clipped up or fastened to something. There are too many stems on a mature plant to fasten them all up, so plant it where it can be allowed at least to partially sprawl, and when size is an issue do not be hesitant to remove some stems completely by just cutting them hard at the base to keep the plant in a size and form that is attractive to you.

In my garden, depending on when it has been cut down throughout the season, it is also one of the longest blooming and latest Clematis to show impeccable and very large flowers in the garden as summer turns to fall and most clematis are going dormant. I have had blooms on the plant in late November, from a second or third round of growth. Truly a great garden performer!

Deborah HardwickDeborah Hardwick

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