MY CLEMATIS DIARY
I am going to start this month with a quiz. Three of the following clematis are scented. Which are scented? The answer will be available on July 3rd.
'W.E. Gladstone'. 'Fair Rosamond'. 'Betty Corning'. 'Madame Julia Correvon'.
C. montana 'Elizabeth'. 'Nelly Moser'.
Let's consider what groups of clematis should be out in the northern and southern hemispheres at the moment. In the northern hemisphere, of course, we have the Early Large Flowered clematis in bloom. Also the Late Large Flowered, the Jackmani Group, are also underway. In our borders we are finding the early herbaceous clematis. Also the viticella clematis can be seen, particularly the early flowering ones, like 'Madame Julia Correvon', 'Etiole Violette', 'Mrs Tage Lundell', etc. Here in the UK there has been a lack of sun and, at least in my area, everything is two weeks late.
In the southern hemisphere, of course, it is midwinter. There, especially in New Zealand, the Evergreen Group must be making a brave display.
The answer to the quiz on July 1st was 'Fair Rosamond', 'Betty Corning' and C. montana 'Elizabeth'.
What should we be doing for the care of our clematis at this time of year? In the northern hemisphere we should be cutting clematis for the house. We should keep a careful eye on the watering programme, making sure that our plants are properly watered. The clematis are busy climbing, particularly the viticellas, and they may need to be tied into place. We may still be taking cuttings for propagation.
In the southern hemisphere, although it is midwinter, much can be done. Clematis beds can be prepared to be planted in early spring. Even holes can be dug at this time of the year. This is the time when one is looking at one's requirements for the year, ordering tools, peat, manure, fertilisers, chemicals, etc. Still keep an eye on the watering because plants near a wall can quickly dry out even in the winter. Then one can be establishing or bringing up-to-date a plan showing the location of the clematis in the garden.
I have now had an opportunity to look back over my notes of the Annual General Meeting of the International Clematis Society in Dresden, to which we travelled on June 29th. This was an opportunity not to be missed. Not only because of the clematis meeting, but an opportunity to visit the beautiful baroque city, capital of Saxony, in what was East Germany. 80 people from a number of countries had travelled to the meeting which was held at Pillnitz, some miles outside Dresden. It was a great joy that first evening to meet, and have dinner with, a number of old friends from a number of countries.
On Friday, June 30th, the morning was devoted to clematis. There was a careful inspection and much discussion on the collection at the horticultural college where we were staying. Each member of the congress had also volunteered to bring a clematis with him or her. These were then planted with ceremony against a warm wall in the garden of the horticultural institute. Discussion was fast and furious over even the most ordinary of clematis. The least known clematis I saw was C. viticella 'Rosea' which had been presented by the firm of Wesphal from near Hamburg, Germany.
The afternoon was spent at the remarkable palace of Pillnitz which was only a short walk away from where we were staying. An extraordinary feature was a 250-year-old camellia in the park. In this vast palace possibly the most pleasing aspect was the Water Palace, right on the River Elbe. That would have been a dream location for anyone.
The next visit was to the castle of Zuschendorf in Pirna. Most of the botanic collection were in very old greenhouses. A particular feature were the bonsai which were there in their hundreds.
The party then departed for the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, Bastei. The area was on the lines of the Grand Canyon although it did not have the colour of the American gorges. The view from the mountain top over the River Elbe below was dramatic as it extended for at least 20 miles and we were fortunate in a still sunny evening. Dinner was then taken at a nearby restaurant.
Saturday July 1st was devoted to papers and a constitutional Annual Meeting. Papers ranged over expeditions to China, clematis wilt (stem rot), identifying a rare plant from China, new varieties from Holland, and the Annual Meeting itself.
The day ended with a delightful riverboat party when we departed from Dresden by paddle steamer along the River Elbe. We joined the river in the evening sun and ended in the darkness as we returned.
The morning was devoted to visiting a remarkable nursery of alpine plants near to the heart of Dresden. This was followed by a leisurely tour of the nearby botanic gardens. Lunch was taken as a picnic from lunchboxes in the garden. The afternoon was devoted to a visit to the old historic centre of Dresden. The city claims to have the finest set of baroque buildings in Europe. They have a dramatic setting on a cliff overlooking the Elbe river which passes through the city. Some absorbed the guided tour while others leisurely strolled about, sitting here and there, and drinking in the atmosphere. As the end of the day came, a moment of leisure. Participants mostly spend the evening dining and talking at the little hotel where we stayed.
Up at 6.00, breakfast at 7.00 and departure 7.45am. The first port of call was a nursery devoted to climbing plants. They had a large clematis section. Lunch was taken at, what we in the UK would call a pub, but in the heart of the country. I swear that the Pilsner beer I had with my lunch was the finest I have ever tasted, which led me to have a second glass, which had some soporific effect in the afternoon. The afternoon was more for the attention of the ladies because it was a visit to the famous porcelain factory of Meissen. The production of the factory was unusually well presented. The early evening was devoted to a private garden. Entering the garden one had just the impression of a quite ordinary garden in front of a small detached house. However, moving left to the greenhouses one was amazed by the exhibits there. Moving right of the house one came to a large number of small gardens, one leading on from the other, with water features, unusual plants and unusual trees. It looked like the ideal place for wine tasting. However, for this we had to move on to a vineyard hanging on a hillside overlooking the River Elbe. We had a welcome drink and then surveyed the vineyard with the help of the proprietor. We then moved inside to a dinner followed by a wine tasting. It is not easy to grow vines and produce good wines as far north as this. They probably have the same problems as we have in producing wines in the UK.
When we set off for a leisurely return to the UK some of the party were moving off for a further four days in Bavaria. They were to see a number of famous gardens and to visit a very extensive clematis collection in a horticultural institute and another collection at a nursery.
On reflection I felt that our trip to Dresden had been most valuable and interesting. Here is a country that has suffered dreadful privations for the last 50 years. It is now busily engaged in coming up to the standards of others in Europe. It is evident that they are doing this with the vigour, resourcefulness and planning that you expect from German people. A high unemployment rate will presumably be cured by moving industry into that area. For clematarians there is naturally little new material. Clematis nurseries have yet to be built up and initially, of course, they will be based on clematis well-known in Europe.
After a period away there is the usual rapid journey round my garden, greenhouse, conservatory, to see if all is well. I had feared that in my absence some of the clematis just coming into flower could have finished flowering. I need not have worried. The weather here had been so appalling for the time of the year that there was little light to move into flowering. Everything was in excellent shape. However, there was a new member of the garden. This was a small rabbit that had found his way in. I need not bother with him because, almost certainly, the black and white cat from next door will see to his future. I notice that the cat is already in the garden. Very quickly they seem to scent that there is prey around.
More and more of the viticella clematis have got over the holly hedge on to the roadside. I must trim some of them as they are encroaching on the light area of the Large Flowered clematis on the roadside of the hedge.
Still no sign of the extra fish that were put into the pond at the time of my birthday. Either a crane has moved in on them or perhaps, as the pond is very deep, they are enjoying the deep waters of the pond. The water-lilies are so well developed and the rest of the herbage of the pond so well covered that I image there must be plenty of food for them. However I feed them once a day in the hope that they will come to the surface.
Viticella 'Prince Charles' is in bloom everywhere in the garden at the moment. Possibly it is most effective in the glorious tree Pyrus salicifolia 'Pendula' (Willow-leafed Pear). This grey-green tree is a perfect foil for most clematis.
I am often asked to advise on clematis for covering a shed. There are a good many. Early in the year, in a sheltered place, the evergreen 'Armandi' does the job beautifully. In late spring there are the montanas. There are a great many that can be used for this purpose. 'Mayleen' would cover a very large shed. One must not forget that in midwinter the montanas are just dry looking sticks. After blooming however they retain their leaves for a very good part of the year. I particularly like, in the montana group, C. chrysocoma 'Continuity'. The flower is one of the most beautiful in the whole of clematis and make ideal material for flower arrangements. For small sheds the viticellas, and there are a very large number, do well for this purpose. Coming to late summer members of the Orientalis Group can be used. 'Rehderiana' would be a very good choice and, indeed, 'Serratifolia'. The new 'Golden Tiara' would be splendid for this work. Coming to early autumn we have 'Fargesii' and related clematis that give a good show for quite a length of time. For the autumn nothing would be better than that lovely plant Clematis terniflora - with great whiffs of scent in addition.
A climbing plant that rivals clematis for its beauty and effectiveness is Solanum jasminoides 'Album'. On my patio it blends beautifully with viticella 'Blue Angel'.
I was asked today how one pronounces the word 'tepal'. I don't think there is much doubt about this. The Oxford Dictionary makes it quite clear the word 'petal' should be pronounced with a short, hard, 'e'. The word 'sepal', the Oxford Dictionary states, should also be pronounced with a short, hard, 'e'. Thus it is quite clear that the word 'tepal' should be pronounced likewise, ie, with a short, hard, 'e'.
I was looking today at our old oak tree. Estimates vary as to its age but some claim it is 400 years old. It is a massive tree. Just recently I watched a fascinating programme on television about the life of an oak tree. The dry summers from the last few years have made a drastic difference to the amount of leaf on the tree. However the rain of the last six months is proving to be a tonic.
Honey fungus is a dreadful disease. Unfortunately it is endemic in this garden and I have lost a number of trees due to it. I was first aware of it when a young willow tree died. I thought that possibly I had neglected the tree so I took it out and replaced it with another. That died too. This tree I examined more carefully and for the first time saw the sheets of white under the bark which is characteristic of honey fungus. Further enquiries showed that willow trees are particularly susceptible to honey fungus. As if this was not enough, almost immediately a large willow tree in another part of the garden suddenly wilted and died. Now I knew how to look for honey fungus and there it was again. Some trees are very susceptible to this fungus and one must avoid growing them. I have never known it to attack clematis however large the plant.
Static water in the garden is important for birds. We have a pond where they can stand on vegetation and help themselves to water from the pond. There is also a fountain where the pigeons, in particular, like to wallow. There is another fountain which brings gentle water down over two or three platforms. Even the smallest birds can reach the water here. In addition we have one or two bird baths that are kept filled with water. In winter we have to make sure everyday that the water has not frozen. To be able to share the birds daily routine brings one close to the birds.
I was asked today about one or two casualties amongst clematis. One person's plant had died to the ground. Or, indeed it might be said, it had never taken off. When she related where she had planted the clematis it was apparent that almost no plant could grow in such a dark corner. She needs to keep it watered until the autumn when it should be possible to move the plant to a more satisfactory place. The other casualty was a `Gipsy Queen'. This is normally a very robust plant. It had died to the ground. One might suspect stem rot (clematis wilt). On the other hand, I suspect that the fungus responsible is that root fungus Phytophera.
Frosty, the cat, is paying particular attention to me this morning. This is probably because she suspects I am going out for the rest of the day, which is quite correct. At moments of anxiety she is particularly loquacious. She could be termed "a talking cat". She likes to be talked to and the longer the better. She does her utmost to respond with small miaows. I can talk to her on any matter, political, religious, domestic, social, gardening, even clematis, and I will always get assent. It's a great comfort always to be agreed with. Talking of cats reminds me of what Winston Churchill had to say about animals. "Cats" he said "look down on you". "Dogs look up to you." "Pigs treat you as an equal." He liked pigs.
There is another tale told about Winston Churchill. Lady Churchill invited him to carve the goose at dinner. He stepped up to the head of the table and picked up the knife. Then he put the knife down again and said "I can't do it. He was a friend of mine."
Talking of a Prime Minister reminds me of a president - President Johnson. He was much upset by the critical attitude of the press. He said "if I were to walk across the water of the Ptomac the heading would not be "PRESIDENT WALKS ON WATER". The heading would be "THE PRESIDENT CAN'T SWIM".
Looking to the far end of the lawn today as I busied with an article for Garden News I saw a horrific sight. There was a pea-hen with four youngsters!! A clematarian's nightmare. Imagine all those little mouths nibbling clematis. Imagine four fully developed pea-cocks attacking the car. Imagine the dirt and the smell of it all. Imagine all that raucous sound.
I had a nightmare last night. The peacocks were attacking my toes. Frosty, brave Frosty, was trying to defend me. The cacophony of sound was beyond belief. I rose in a sweat looking for my gun. I settled on a cup of tea.
We are now in the last stages of the preparation Choosing Your Clematis which will be published shortly, in September. That will be my 53rd book.
An aspiring author must, first of all, get inspiration as to what he is going to write about. So first of all comes the idea which should lead to a title.
Then comes the hard work of the author which may span many months. It's essential to work to a plan and that plan must be flexible and alter as ideas alter. It is not unusual to find that the material you have put into the conclusions will be better in the introductions and vice-versa. Some people now write direct on a computer. I still use a pen on paper. This is not as time consuming as you might think. As you write a sentence you can immediately alter it without too much difficulty. Having written a paragraph you can survey it and alter it three or four times. I then dictate a day's work. That then goes to my literary assistant who puts it into the computer and lets me have a manuscript copy. This is gone through carefully and would certainly be altered two or three times. It is not unusual to alter a paragraph six or seven times. While the manuscript is being written, the photographs are being collected. In my case I do all the photography myself.
The manuscript and photographs now are lying with the publisher. The contract which the author signs sells the right to publish to the publisher. The publisher is putting forward the capital for the book and has complete charge of all matters relating to production and publication. The author only retains the right not to have the contents interfered with. At the publishers a number of people get to work on the book. An editor will carefully scrutinise every word of the book and make amendments. A designer will consider all points relating to the presentation of the book. Another person will be arranging the photographs in their proper place in the book. An artist will be preparing drawings.
The next step is for the author to have proofs of the book. In the old days these first came as galley proofs. Later came the page proofs. Today they all come as page proofs. The changes made by the publisher are carefully checked by the author with agreement, disagreement, or discussion. I have always found the help given by publishers to be invaluable. Quite often a second set of proofs may be required. Some publishers will also allow the author to have a hand in designing the jacket.
The publisher has now moved to the final stages. Printing begins. Then comes the binding. Then comes the preparation of the dust jacket. On this there is a title, description of contents and a biography of the author.
The day comes when the new book arrives with the author. He will spend much time on his first book. Thereafter the book will be quickly perused and put aside. He is busy on the next book! The next one is "the big one". Under his contract the author will receive six copies of his book. He will also receive a royalty, plus or minus 10% of what the publisher receives for a copy. Any extra copies of his book he will pay for at the same rate as the bookshops.
Reviewers will now seize upon the book. The further the reviewer is from the author then the more balanced will be the review. Frequently reviews of the book tell you more about the reviewer than the book.
If the book is a success then nasty things will be said. If the book is a failure then pleasant things will be said. "Poor chap - made a mess of it again. We must be kind to him."
All that is a quick distillation of views after being responsible for 53 books.
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