When the dog bites

Some plants just make you ache.  There’s thousands of plants I like, hundreds that I love, and just a few that can make my heart skip a beat – plants that hold my attention for ages, and then having me longing to look again, and for longer, the moment I look away.

Just now, amongst several things in the garden that I’ll visit daily, there’s only one that has me entirely in its spell.  And that’s Clematis x durandii.

I’ve had a long-term unresolved attraction to these non-climbing clematis, and I’m not sure why.  I’ve never managed to get a decent plant of Clematis integrifolia going (they were always sold way too small – the size that would need nurturing in a pot for a year before planting out.  I don’t trust myself to provide that level of care over a prolonged period.  Then last year I saw a huge fat plant for sale in a big pot, but I resisted the purchase on the basis of having no appropriate context for it.  I’ve regretted it ever since).

I’d love to get hold of a plant of Clematis x eriostemon, but I don’t think it’s here in Australia.  Again, I don’t understand quite why the longing.  There’s a possibility I’d be disappointed in ownership.   After all, it’s not like it’s widely grown where it is available.  Hardly known, as far as I can see.

Anyway, my C x durandii is now in its third season, and is finally convincingly multi-stemmed.  They do take a while to really bulk up.  Everything about it is just so satisfyingly chunky.

I love its inky blue.  The pics make it look more purple, but the colour is exactly as I remember the ink that we used in primary school, back in the days when we had to get a licence to use a fountain pen – something I achieved in Grade 3, possibly only weeks before no one ever thought of using a fountain pen again.

I love the velour of its petal texture – of its extraordinary balance between being primarily matte, but capable of a macro sheen when light hits it at a certain angle.

I love that ghostly grey on the back of its emphatically funnel-shaped buds, and how the intense colour at the base dilutes as it apparently spreads into the widening petals.

I can’t say I love its yellow and white central boss of stamens, though I like it well enough, and have no doubt that its presence is essential to the overall appeal of the flower.

But I do love its leaves – about as simple a leaf that anyone could think up, or any kid could draw.

To be frank, I’m totally sick for the thing.


  1. Hi, Michael,

    Have you ever thought of writing a book of love poems for plants? Your description of this clematis would qualify, if just slightly re-structured in rhythm… 🙂
    My guess would be you love this plant now because it’s just so hard for you to wait for a few months, until your one true love, the Heavenly Blue, flowers?

    1. Thanks Adele. Wish there was a market for such a thing. Not that I’d be the best person to write it, but it’d be lovely to think that the market would welcome it. It’s hard enough finding a publisher for really useful, practical books, let alone books that might take a more esoteric angle.
      Ah, Heavenly Blue…I do love it, but I’m no monogamist when it comes to plants.

  2. Clematis Durandii is one of the most beautiful Clematis there is .Clematis eriostemon is not in Australia as far as we know .But if there is anybody out there who might have a plant of it in the garden we are happy to propagate it and try get get it in the Australian gardens. There are other beautiful Blue non clingers like Arabella and Rougucie, do not forget the beautiful pink Alionuska.

    You realy should come to Alameda Homestead Nursery one day in early Spring , and you will fall in love with the rest of the Clematis Collection .email me your postal adres and I send you a catalogue .



  3. I agree whole heartedly, my clematis durandii is displaying a show stopping flower at the moment, but only one, and only one bud in sight. I’ve been waiting for the bulking up process for five years but so far only 2 stems, clearly she is unhappy with me and produces just a few tantalisingly glorious flowers each season

  4. Now I am so tempted to paint it. May I come and pick a stem or 2 or 3

    Kidding I would be out with the machete and it wouldn’t be to control the plant!
    Seriously, I agree. That violet saturation is almost beyond belief . With a blush of ultramarine. Anita Barley would do it justice. I wonder if she would be able to pick from the systems beds at Kew. What a heretical thought.

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