USA 2014 - Part 2

The 2014 Meeting of the International Clematis Society in the USA

This is the second of my informal reports about the visit by the Society to the USA in May/June 2014. A comprehensive set of articles by attendees will be published in Clematis International 2015 but here I'll give you my personal perspective of the event, in particular looking beyond the clematis as well as at them.

For the other reports please click Part 1, the first report of our time in Georgia, Part 3, our first two days in Pennsylvania. For the fourth installment, continuing time in Pennsylvania, please click Part 4 and for the fifth, covering the last two days in Pennsylvania, please click Part 5.

Part 2 - A Taste of Viorna continued

University of Georgia Trial Gardens

Saturday, our last day in Georgia, and we set off for Athens and the University of Georgia (UGA). The first state-chartered university in America, UGA was founded in 1785. The campus felt more like a small to medium sized town, but that's not so surprising with over 30,000 students and nearly 10,000 faculty and staff.

We were here to meet with Dr. John Ruter, UGA Professor of Horticulture and Director of the Trial Gardens. Nurseries and breeders send lots of new plants every year to the Trial Gardens for evaluation in the hot and often dry but sometimes very wet Georgia climate. But we were visiting because at the moment they have a number of clematis, from Raymond Evison/Dan Long and Szczepan Marczyñski/Rijnbeek and Son Perennials.

Dr. John Ruter greeted us and gave us a short introduction before letting us wander at will. But before we were let loose, he gave each of us five orange or pink flags and asked that we place them next to our five favourite cultivars.

UGA Trial Gardens
UGA Trial Gardens Dr. John Ruter
The trial grounds are surrounded by university buildings but are quite extensive. They are made up of numbered beds and, using the location sheet we were given, it was quite easy most of the time to find any cultivar that one was particularly interested in, though occasionally the bed numbering seemed slightly less than logical. So in spite of the blazing sun, we wandered around to see who was doing well and who was not. UGA Trial Gardens
As well as the clematis, there were a number of other trials going on, and one that caught my eye was that of hanging baskets. They made a very colourful display.

So we wandered, taking notes, planting our flags and admiring how well some of the cultivars were doing despite the relentless temperature.

Surrounding the Trial plots were "ordinary" flower beds, running back to a fence, and against this at one point was a very good, though unnamed, C. texensis. We were quite amused to see Werner Stastny clambering up the slope to plant one of his flags, to be followed by a number of other members.

UGA Trial Gardens Hanging Baskets
UGA Trial Gardens Hanging Basket Werner Stastny and C. texensis

There were far too many clematis to feature them all so I've selected what appeared to be the favourites of our group. As our visit drew to a close, Fiona and I tried to do a quick flag count. It was not very scientific, all we could do was home in on those cultivars that appeared, from a distance, to have a large cluster of waving decorations. So the choices, with their provisional placings, are shown below.

C. 'Krakowiak'
C. 'Krakowiak' - joint 3rd with 11 flags

C. 'Mazowsze'
C. 'Mazowsze' - joint 3rd with 11 flags

C. 'Vistula'
C. 'Vistula' - 2nd with 14 flags

C. 'Solina' flags

C. 'Solina'
C. 'Solina' - 1st with 19 flags (see left)

Group photo at UGA Trial Gardens

Brushwood Nursery

Time for a group photo and then it was back on the (air conditioned, so so welcome) bus and of to our next stop, Brushwood Nursery, owned and run by Dan Long. He recently moved to the current location and was still setting up the new facility, but he was happy for us to visit and see progress.

We were greeted by a very attractive "Brushwood Nursery­ display, and some interesting clematis around the entrance, notably C. 'Night Veil', C. diversifolia 'Heather Herschell', C. 'Starfish' and C. crispa 'Derry Berry'. I also loved the entrance walkway, in-house manufactured interlocking tiles in the style of the artist, M.C. Escher.

Brushwood Nursery

C. 'Night Veil'
C. 'Night Veil'

C. diversifolia 'Heather Herschell'
C. diversifolia 'Heather Herschell'

C. 'Starfish'
C. 'Starfish'

C. crispa 'Derry Berry'
C. crispa 'Derry Berry'

M.C. Escher style interlocking tiling
M.C. Escher style interlocking tiling

After some words of welcome, Dan led us into the growing glasshouses. It was obvious immediately just how much thought, planning and work goes into creating such an enterprise.

Dan Long welcomes the group
Dan Long welcomes the group

It was quite fascinating seeing a nursery in construction, made even more difficult since Dan continues to grow and trade.

But time was marching on and we had a lunch date at a local community centre. Dan and his wife, Becky, treated us all to some real southern food, prepared by some of the neighbours and others who lives close by and use the centre.

It was wonderful.

Brushwood Nursery Glasshouse
Brushwood Nursery Glasshouse

Brushwood Nursery Glasshouse
Brushwood Nursery Glasshouse

Brushwood Nursery Glasshouse
Brushwood Nursery Glasshouse

Currahee Mountain

Our afternoon destination was the Blue Ridge Mountains, specifically Mount Currahee, at the southern end. Used as a training ground for paratroopers in World War 2 and the location for a number of films. Fortunately our bus drove us to the summit, so we were spared a long run up to the top.

We were looking for C. viorna, and we didn't have to go far to find it. Less than 50 metres from where we parked we found our first colony, scrambling across the ground and through low growing undergrowth. And it had flowers. We queued to get a close look and take photos. In fact there were a good number of examples of C. viorna in this area.

We spent a very pleasant hour wandering around, discovering a number of colonies of clematis plus other native plants, also some beautiful iridescent blue butterflies.

At the top of Currahee Mountain

We've spotted C. viorna The habitat of C. viorna
C. viorna at Mountain Currahee Butteryfly at Currahee Mountain

It was such a beautiful afternoon, and perhaps none of us wanted the day to end, so after getting a promise that the bus would wait for us part way down the mountain, we set off down the road on foot.

It was not just a very pleasant stroll, we found yet another clematis by the side of the road, identified as C. ochroleuca. The first we saw were some distinctive seedheads, then the flowers were spotted. Growing beside and a little over the edge of the tarmac, quite how they'd avoided being run over was anyone's guess. But there were a number of plants and they appeared to be thriving.
Walking down in front of our bus C. ochroleuca seedhead
C. ochroleuca by the roadside The flower of C. ochroleuca

We boarded the bus and started to head home, but there was one more stop. A favoured - from the number of cars in the car park - roadside halt for many travellers, the main attraction of Jaemor Farm Market for many of us was the home made ice cream, and being at the height of the peach season, in the centre of the peach state, what else but peach flavour. Delicious, as Werner Stastny will testify!

Werner Stastny and peach ice cream

To read some more, please see Part 1, the first report of our time in Georgia, Part 3, our first two days in Pennsylvania, Part 4 the middle two days and Part 5 the last two days in Pennsylvania.

Return to top of page

Return to Homepage

@ K.Woolfenden