In July 2011 I received a telephone call from a very good friend, a true clematis fanatic with a wonderful garden in North East England, her name is Heather Russell.
She told me that her garden had been filmed by BBC TV Gardeners World and that the programme was being shown on Friday 2nd August 2011. Watching the short clip of Heather's garden, I was amazed at the collection of clematis that she had acquired over the years and how beautifully she had put them together in the garden. Obviously in August the viticellas were just at their best; C. 'Abundance', C. 'Emilia Plater' and several other really good examples of the Viticella Group were pointed out to the viewers, but my eye was taken to a background plant, a sinister, small, dark purple bell flower, hundreds of them, on the old wall that is such an outstanding feature at Garden Cottage, Bolam. Speaking to Heather on the telephone shortly afterwards, firstly to congratulate her on her superb garden, but mostly I really wanted to know about the as yet un-mentioned background clematis. Heather had been to a UK Hardy Plant Society, North East Group, meeting, several years before and after the evening event, the speaker had a few plants for sale, mostly home grown, and Heather spotted a young clematis seedling, labelled as Clematis campaniflora, from seed collected in the speakers garden. She grew the plant on, then planted it against her background wall, expecting to have a display of white C. campaniflora, which is indeed a beautiful plant, small flowers, but in large quantity. She said she was rather startled when the first flowers appeared, but slowly she became to really like the plant and it seemed to be very happy in it's new home. She decided that she would like to register it as C. 'Bolam Belle' and this I did with Heather's approval in 2012, after she had successfully layered a piece and sent it to me. We planted it in the garden here where it is superb, every year, scrambling through roses and other shrubs, totally out of control, the only attention it receives is a severe hacking back every February.
C. 'Bolam Belle' on the old brick wall at the back of Heather's garden
C. 'Bolam Belle' is not easy to propagate from cuttings for some reason, every year a few strike but only a small proportion, but it seeds itself everywhere, lots of attractive seedlings to be found every Summer, none true to type, quite variable. Flower size is 4 to 5 cms diameter. I am convinced that C. 'Bolam Belle' will grow anywhere, the garden here at Hesketh Bank is on reclaimed marshland, extremely wet all winter, dry all summer, but she is perfectly happy here, no mildew or any other problem, probably would reach a height of 5 metres if there was something to climb up or over, looking extremely good scrambling through our large shrub Rosa 'Blush Noisette'.
The very floriferous C. 'Bolam Belle'
We adore C. 'Bolam Belle' here, as do garden visitors, but we are unable to give it the platform it deserves, like at it's true home at Bolam.
Looking into a flower of C. 'Bolam Belle'
Flower size of C. 'Bolam Belle'