The Clematis & Rose Combo

By Andy McIndoe

How to Growing Clematis In Association With Roses

I always admire clever combinations of climbing plants. It seems the effect of two climbers growing together is so much greater than the sum of the impact of the individuals. No two climbers have greater effect than a rose and a clematis working together. For me this is especially true in late summer when my favourite Clematis viticella varieties come into bloom.

I asked the king of clematis, Raymond Evison to share his thoughts on growing clematis with roses.

1 Clematis and roses (1280x960)


Growing clematis in association with roses is by no way a new concept. Clematis and roses just seem to fit together naturally and complement each other beautifully.

With a little thought it is possible to possible to select a clematis to flower before a rose flowers, one that flowers with the rose to create a colour combination, or one that flowers after the rose to extend the season.

3 Late flowering clematis (1280x853)

Some of the great old roses only have a relatively short flowering season, but their stems lend themselves fantastically to host the trailing vines of clematis which them creates another dimension to the rose.

However one very important rule to observer is to select only clematis that require hard pruning each spring.

The reason for this is that most roses require annual pruning to some extent and if any of the clematis that are used do not require hard annual pruning  (because they flower from the previous seasons ripened stems) life for those doing the pruning becomes very complicated, knowing what to prune out and what stems to leave in place.

4 Clematis jackmanii Superba (1280x868)

Another important point is to know how vigorous the clematis is. Do not use varieties that belong to the montana group or the very vigorous tangutica group; they will swamp any rose.

The old fashioned, but yet very good varieties that belong to the C. Jackmanii Group are ideal. Such as Clematis ‘Jackmanii’, or ‘Jackmanii Superba’, ‘Comtesse de Bouchard’, ‘Star of India’, ‘Victoria’ or ‘Gypsy Queen’ are ideal.

5 Clematis and roses (1280x960)

The viticella clan are brilliant too. Varieties such as ‘Kermesina’, ‘Abundance’, ‘Etoile Violette’, ‘Royal Velours’ or ‘Alba Luxurians’ will enhance any shrub or botanical rose.

However the superb clematis ‘Polish Spirit’ would be far to vigorous and swamp most roses. It should not be used to grow in association with a rose unless it is a very tall growing rambler or climbing, perhaps growing 20 ft (6m) up into a tree.

6 Clematis Viticella (1280x853)

So just check out the habit of the clematis and its flowering period in detail before you choose it. From recent breeding work I will recommend some new varieties of clematis.

These combine reasonably large flowers, height and they give a great crop of flowers, but are not overwhelming in growth, and will not swamp a rose, tree or bush.

In fact these new varieties only grow to about 6ft (1.8m) and more importantly start flowering at about 18" (45cm) above soil level.

So they have an advantage over the older Jackmanii and viticella types that start flowering at about 5-6 ft (150/180cm), so their lower stems are bare and without flowers.

7 Clematis Shimmer

Clematis ‘Shimmer’ has pale blue flowers that are about 5ins (12cm) in diameter.

Clematis ‘Amethyst Beauty’ is very deep satiny purple, with flowers of the same size as ‘Shimmer’.

8 Clematis Amethyst Beauty (1280x872)

Clematis ‘Viennetta’ has very dramatic flowers, with white outer sepals and a purple central boss; the flowers are slightly smaller than the previous two.

9 Clematis Vienetta (1280x840)

Clematis ‘Reflections’ is my favourite, with single and semi-double flowers of a delicate shade of light lilac-mauve, 6 ins (15cm) diameter.

10 Clematis Reflections (1280x848)

All of these clematis should be cut back to within 6-9ins (15-20 cm) of soil level in late winter or early spring just before they start into growth.

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My tips on planting a clematis to grow with a rose:

It is very important that the garden soil is prepared well before planting. Dig a hole 18x18ins (45x45cm) and incorporate some well-rotted garden compost in the bottom of the hole.

Back fill with good top soil mixed with old potting mix. Add a rose feed or other general fertiliser and water the clematis in well to encourage good establishment.

As always plant the clematis plant that extra 2-3ins (6-7cm) deeper than the soil level in its nursery pot to protect against any future damage.

The opportunities for growing clematis with roses, and the different planting combinations that can be achieved are very exciting. Try them and create some great new effects in your garden.

For more about Ray Evison’s clematis visit:

Andy McIndoe

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