Monches Farm, LLC
5890 Monches Road
Visitors to the Farm this week will admire the cloudlike abundance of frothy white flowers borne on the vigorous twining perennial vine that cloaks the entryway to the shop and rambles along the split rail fence by the parking area.
When they ask us its name we will answer with its common name, Sweet Autumn Clematis. This is because taxonomists have changed the botanical name of this plant three times in the past decade; from Clematis paniculata to the unpronounceable Clematis maximonowicziana and most recently to Clematis terniflora. So to us it will remain, for the time being, simply Sweet Autumn Clematis.
By any name, though, it is a great plant. It is among the most vigorous of Clematis so for those who have struggled growing the daintier forms we recommend that you try again with this robust performer. It is also the most shade tolerant of the group and will happily grow in conditions ranging from full sun to significant shade. It is a very rapid grower and its twining stems can grow to 20’ in a single season. It blooms with a profusion of highly fragrant small white star-like flowers in September that bring a freshness to the declining autumn garden. While it is far too rambunctious for a small trellis, it is ideal for growing along fences or over pergolas or arbors.
Pruning is not necessary with Sweet Autumn Clematis but, since it blooms on new wood, pruning can be performed prior to new growth beginning in spring if desired. Some gardeners choose to cut the plant back in early spring to gain a more refined and less twiggy appearance. We leave ours unpruned and enjoy the birds nesting in it in the spring as well as the massive clouds of flowers in the autumn. After blooming the plant is covered in Seuss-like twirling puffy seedheads.*
*It should be noted that, while we have never seen any problems with this plant here in Zone 5, it can become problematic in more southern areas if it is allowed to go to seed. For that reason it is recommended that the plant be cut to the ground prior to setting seed in zones 6 and above.