One of the regularly early flowering summer clematis in my garden near London is Clematis 'Night Veil'. The lovely dark purple flowers show up well in a dark corner behind a huge mound of Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' grass and the colour is accented by a variegated purple iris in the pond nearby. Usually Clematis 'Helios' adds to this pleasing mix of purple and yellow but, alas, not this year as C. 'Helios' has not yet got into its stride.
The flowers are dainty and sway gently on the end of quite long flower stalks. The flowers are usually 10 cms (4 inches) across. When the flowers open the colour is dark reddish purple and then fades to purple. The flowers on my plant usually have 6 sepals but may only have 4 or 5. The filaments start clustered tightly in the centre of the flower so all one can see are the dark purple anthers. Then these unfurl so that the white of the filaments are viewed giving the appearance of a white ring round the stigma in the centre of the flower.
Newly opened C. 'Night Veil' with redder colour and darker centre than the older flowers.
Generally, the flowers are described as just having a small amount of white in the centre at the base of the tepal. However, I have found that this varies from flower to flower and often there is quite a lot of white marking down the centre of each tepal; which I prefer as it provides a contrast to the purple centre of the flower. Looking at the flowers from a distance, the purple dominates so that the eye sees less white. As you get closer you notice the white markings. I experimented taking a photo of a flower on my phone and then comparing it with the actual flower. There was more white in the photo than my eye registered. I notice that a number of the pictures that I have taken over the last few years with fewer white markings are dated June or July and that the picture with the whitest markings is dated in October. Perhaps the later flowers have more pronounced white markings. I also think that as the flowers fade they become a little paler which may mean that the purple is less dominant so they appear to acquire more white marking. I tend to prune C. 'Night Veil' to about 60 cms (2 feet). The stems look very delicate and I am concerned that the slugs and snails in my garden will love them. Although the pruning advice for this plant is to hard prune I want to give the plant a head start in the spring with the new growth above the ground. C. 'Night Veil' was raised by Masashi Iino in Japan in 1997 and named by him. It was then registered in 2005 by the late Hiroshi Takeuchi, who died last year in July in 2017. Hiroshi-san was very keen to publicize and promote Japanese breeders and their clematis to an international audience so he registered a number of clematis. As an aside, Members of the International Clematis Society will be pleased to know that in this year's journal, Clematis International 2018, there are a number of tributes to Hiroshi and a list of the descriptions of clematis that he raised, introduced and / or registered. C. 'Night Veil' has been available in Europe from the time that Hiroshi registered it, the first published reference in the UK was in 2005. He kindly sent plants to several Clematis Nurseries in the UK and Europe. It was introduced by Thorncroft Clematis Nursery at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. I acquired one a few years after. The first photo that I could find of C. 'Night Veil' in my garden is dated from 2011 so my plant is at least 7 years old. C. 'Night Veil' is registered as a cross between Clematis florida var. florida 'Sieboldiana' and Clematis 'Rubra' (Viticella Group). Although this plant is categorized as being in the Viticella Group it has a lot of florida attributes. Its habit is quite shy, and it likes to grow amongst other plants. Some viticella plants can be very vigorous. The flowers are outward facing and do not hang as most viticellas do. The flower is very similar to Clematis 'Venosa Violacea' which is of similar parentage and has raised issues as to its categorization. The main difference between the two flowers is the shape as the sepals of C. 'Night Veil' are rounder and overlap. C. 'Venosa Violacea' is no longer unique!
C. 'Night Veil' taken in June
C. 'Night Veil' taken in October, with much whiter markings