Clematis as Cut Flowers? Really?

I’d read, some time back, about Clematis x durandii used as a cut flower in the Netherlands.  It didn’t sound plausible.  There’s something really stringy and splitty about its stems that makes you feel like it’d be useless at taking up water.

Years later I spotted Clematis integrifolia (or perhaps a hybrid thereof) in bunches in the floating flower markets in Amsterdam.  I couldn’t stop looking at them.  I wanted to buy them so bad (So why didn’t I?  Cos I only had one more night in the hotel.  Looking at them in the pic, it’s clear I really should have bought them anyway).  But far more, I wanted to be able to grow cuttable quantities of them at home.

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This year was the first time I had enough Clematis x durandii flowers to allow myself a small bunch.  The following photo was taken a full ten days after they were picked. The flower on the far left is sagging a bit, but other than that, they’re still perfect. (The Ammi majus (Queen Anne’s Lace) in the vase behind was picked much more recently).  Seems like the stems of the clematis, which feel like they shatter into separate, parallel stringy fibres if you bend them, are actually very efficient at taking up water.

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It’s a healthy reminder.  Intuition doesn’t count for much when it comes to gardening.

Discussion

  1. I grew Rhododendrons for nearly 20 years and it wasn’t till I had to do some drastic pruning and felt sorry for the flowers lying around my feet that I realised what fabulous cut flowers they are, I just plonked them in a vase (after lying discarded for an hour) and they lasted for weeks. I always assumed (I’m not sure why…)they would be terrible cut flowers and, having not learnt my lesson, I assumed the same about clematis. Thanks for the heads up so to speak, I shall venture forth with my secateurs and finally do some experimenting.,

    1. Funny. It had never occurred to me that rhododendrons wouldn’t work as cut flowers. But you can never tell what signals you’re reading (or in my case, mis-reading) when you make these assumptions, can you.
      My absolute favourite rhodie for cutting was Rhododendron maddenii, which flowered at Christmas for us on Mount Macedon. Thick, waxy, tubular, citrus-scented flowers and deep green, glossy slender foliage. Stunning

  2. Come Spring, I’ll give the Clematis a try.! Thanks for the tip.

  3. My dear brother bought me the American “the Plant Lovers Guide to Clematis” for Christmas . There is a section on Clematis as cut flowers with a suggestion to use alcohol ( ethanol 95% 2tblsp per quart ) and I quote ” If you purchase these alcohols in a drugstore , a small proportion of acetone will have to be added to deter the foolish from drinking the stuff” ” Needless to say, don’t be wasting Aviation gin on Clematis . Give ’em the cheap stuff”

    1. And is there any rhyme or reason about which ones perform best when cut? Are there, for instance, groups, or hybrids derived from particular species that work better than others?

  4. Isn’t it lovely for you to realise that, after so many years of professional gardening, you can still be deeply surprised? Sounds like a good New Year gift from the plant world, delivered directly to your heart!

    1. Hi Adele. I’m forever being deeply surprised. It seems like no amount of experience or expertise is going to alter that. Thank goodness…

  5. Nice post as always. Just writing here to encourage you to keep writing, and more frequently, if possible, if you have something to say. I adore the colour of that clematis.

  6. Many years ago I saw Alexis Datta raving about the Clematis x durandii plants at Sissinghurst.
    Ever since then I have been scouring nurseries and nursery catalogues for this species, but alas no luck.
    Now you tell us that you have “pickable quantities”; I hate you!

    1. Where are you Rupert? In Australia? If you’re in the UK, I can’t imagine you’d have any trouble sourcing Clematis x durandii. If in Australia, get it from Alameda Homestead Nursery. If anywhere else, I wouldn’t have a clue.

    2. Alameda says no durandii for sale; what a surprise!

    3. Dang. Hope that’s no forever…

  7. If only I had some clematis flowers to pick! I have two different clematis plant in two separate parts of my garden. The second plant is a new addition to garden and it initially flowered with stunningly large passion fruit flower like blooms. My intention was for it to ramble through my apple tree hedge. However, the possums have found it more delicious than my apples. I though (and hoped) it would be poisonous to them. What do I do?
    My garden is small and I do not have room to move it elsewhere.

    1. I wonder how those large flowered hybrids go, going picked? The great thing about both C. x durandii and its parent C. integrifolia is that the flowers are terminal on the stem, so you can pick ’em with a reasonable stem attached. The same isn’t true for most the the climbers.
      As for the possums, I have absolutely no suggestions. The only time I saw possums fully beaten was by a light being placed under a magnolia, that had wattage to rival those at the MCG. The owner commented that they were by far the most expensive magnolia flowers in Australia, and that it would have been cheaper to have Kevin O’Neill (Melbourne’s top florist) come and tie buds into the tree every week for its flowering period.

  8. Dear Michael,
    I have just read your article on Clematis x durandii..Thank you for the info re picking them.. I have been trying for years to make them climb a structure,but to no avail.They will now be treated with more respect.
    One is a much paler blue and the flowers smaller than yours.What do you feed them with?

    1. Hi Ruth,
      I hardly feed the thing at all. Feeding is something I’m really bad at. If I remember, just as it’s shooting in late winter a load a heap of manure around it. But I’d be surprised if that made much difference to the flower colour. They do fade over time, and the first flush of flowers is much larger and darker than any subsequent flowering as the season progresses.
      But as you’re now well aware, it’s totally useless trying to get it to climb. It has no capability to wind it’s leaf petioles around anything (being, as it is, progeny of the non-climbing, grass-dwelling, or rock-scrabbling Clematis integrifolia). You’ve either got to grow it through something that will support it, or fling it over something. Or allow it to run along the ground (which, in my case, usually results in snail, slug or earwig-chewed flowers).

  9. Clematis xDurandii is available again from Alameda Homestead Nursery.

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