Clematis 'Ken'

Clematis of the Month for March 2023

described by Fiona Woolfenden

C. 'Ken'©Fiona Woolfenden

Clematis 'Ken'

Ken Woolfenden©P Venables

Ken Woolfenden

It is an honour to have a clematis named after you, especially if it is bred by the late Ton Hannink. Ken Woolfenden, my husband, current Editor of the Society's Journal and Webperson (see left), was excited with the naming of this enchanting little bell by Ton. Clematis 'Ken' was introduced to us one evening during the International Clematis Society trip to Switzerland in 2009. However, it was a few years before we obtained a plant!

C. Ken looking more red-purple©F Woolfenden

C. 'Ken' looking more red-purple

The colour of the flower varies in photos. I would describe it as a pale lilac-purple but in the photo to the right it looks more red-purple and the photo that Ton initially presented (Clematis International 2010 page 85) was also very red-purple, perhaps in this instance from the plant having been grown in a greenhouse. In my garden it flowers from June through to September. The photo above was taken of the plant grown outdoors near London, UK, in June and the photo to the right was taken in July. The last photos below were taken in the second week of August where it looks more bluey-lilac and there is more mildew on the stems which make the flower look bluer. It flowers very well, despite any mildew which I do not treat as I do not really notice it, and is one of the plants that flowers the latest in my garden.

As you can see the flowers are nodding on long pedicels from the stems and hang nicely with a ruffled edge which curves back. The flower margins of the flower are a little paler which makes the flower look more interesting and noticeable. The flower tilts a little to face you and, in the right position, you look up into it. The flower buds are attractive being coloured, long and pointed.

The plant doesn't pull itself up by twining onto a support, but it grows very strongly upright so I tie it to a trellis and that keeps it upright and in place. It grows to the height of my trellis and a bit more and I tie in sideways along the trellis; so it grows to about 6-8 feet or 2-2.5 meters and flowers on the top two thirds of the plant. The plant faces west so it gets shade in the morning and a lot of sun in the afternoon and evening. It is actually a very easy plant to look after. I prune it every year to a few inches of the ground and, as I write this article in February, there are a number of strong red coloured shoots emerging from the base of the plant. I will feed it in a few weeks when the weather warms up.

C. 'Ken' tied into trellis©F Woolfenden

C. 'Ken' tied into trellis

C. 'Ken' almost blue-lilac in colour©F Woolfenden

C. 'Ken' almost blue-lilac in colour

Ton described the breeding of C. 'Ken' as a cross between C. pitcheri and C. cylindrica. Looking at Roy Nunn's photos of C. pitcheri then you can see a number of similarities in the urn shape of the flowers and in the way that the sepals curve back. C. cylindrica adds the length of the flower and, perhaps the deep frilly edges to the flower.

C. 'Ken' was kindly registered by Mathias Münster in 2012 and introduced that year by Münster Baumschule. As far as I am aware the only place it can be bought from is Münster Baumschule – and where our plant came from. It can be found on Mathias's web site in the texensis section at I think, in this instance, listing it as a 'texensis' is to include it in a group of clematis with a bell-shaped flowers, but while I have problems growing texensis in my garden I find C. 'Ken' grows very well. I would describe this plant as a "good doer"!

Fiona Woolfenden Fiona Woolfenden

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