Clematis 'Proteus'

Clematis of the Month for September 2020

described by Laura Watson

C. 'Proteus'©Laura Watson

Clematis 'Proteus' is a shape changer with the ability to exhibit double, semi-double, and single flowers all at the same time (see photo below). Usually, though, early summer is the time for double and semi-double flowers, while single flowers tend to flourish in late summer. This ability to take on different forms explains why Charles Noble named it C. 'Proteus' – Proteus was a Greek god who was always able to slither out of being captured by changing his shape.

C. 'Proteus' blooms a bit later than most of the other early large-flowered clematis. In my garden, it usually first blooms around mid-June. The color, which is a dusky mauve/pink that gets lighter with each new layer, is nicely set off by white filaments and yellow anthers. Many of the tepals twist slightly enhancing the texture of the blooms. According to Magnus Johnson, a large double blossom can have up to 10 rows of tepals, with as many as 100 tepals all together! While I have not taken the time to count layers and tepals, the photo above demonstrates that they most certainly are abundant. Single blossoms have six-to-eight narrow sepals and are generally lighter in color, especially in late summer and fall. The buds of the double flowers are large, round, and fat, while single-blossom buds are long and narrow. The plant grows to about 7-10' tall and especially enjoys partial shade.

C. 'Proteus' was hybridized by Charles Noble in 1876, making it one of the early forerunners of the early large-flowered group. Noble particularly enjoyed crossing C. fortunei (with its propensity for double forms) with either C. 'Standishii' or C. patens. C. 'Proteus', however, is a cross between C. v. 'Grandiflora' and C. fortunei.

In the late 1800s Noble produced many hybrids that are still, like C. 'Proteus', well-loved today. A few among the many are:
C. 'Daniel Deronda'
C. 'Jackmanii Alba'
C. 'Miss Bateman'
C. 'Mrs. Cholmondeley'
C. 'The President'

Noble's Sunningdale Nursery in Surrey in the UK once covered one mile on either side of the road! What a popular nursery it must have been!

Double, Semi-Double, and Single Blossoms All at Once!©Laura Watson Petals unfurling©Laura Watson

Double, Semi-Double, and Single Blossoms All at Once!

Petals unfurling

Enjoying Dappled Shade©Laura Watson Single Blooms High in the Tree in Mid-August©Laura Watson

Enjoying Dappled Shade

Single Blooms High in the Tree in Mid-August

Laura Watson Laura Watson

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