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Anyone grow Sweet Autumn Clematis/Virgin's Bower?

15 years ago

A neighbor up the alley has some growing on a fence, and my cousin has it growing on her pergola. I know it's profuse. I am pondering growing it along the chain link fence between my next door neighbor's and my yard. She has a vegetable garden on her side. I had to take out the rose bush I had growing there because the type had tons of suckers that were highly invasive to both her and my yard. How difficult is the clematis to keep contained? It's overtaking the neighbors fence, but that fence just backs up to an alley, not another person's yard. I could keep it cut back if the growth was profuse, but if it has root suckers that would be a problem. Also would it get too heavy for a chainlink? I like the idea of it HIDING the chainlink, but not ruining it. I could grow the showier clematis, but I don't have much luck with them, and they don't smell heavanly like the wild clematis.

Comments (10)

  • 15 years ago

    I was thinking about planting clematis myself, but haven't got any yet because I have similar concerns about it getting out of control.

    I was thinking of trying Clematis 'Henryi' which has large white flowers and is a garden hybrid, but am not sure how aggressive this one would be either. I'm curious to see what other poster's comments will be about recommended flowering vines in the PA area.

    If you do go ahead and plant a clematis, I would go with the U.S. native Clematis virginiana (Virgin's Bower), rather than the Clematis terniflora (Sweet Autumn Clematis) which is native to Japan.

    Some of the Asian natives like Clematis terniflora can really get out of control here in the U.S.A. The Missouri Botanical Garden says that "sweet autumn clematis can aggressively self-seed in the landscape, and has escaped cultivation and naturalized in many parts of the U.S."

    They describe sweet autumn clematis as a "spreading, sometimes hard-to-control vine" with an "extremely rampant growth habit," and say that "without support, it will sprawl along the ground as a dense, tangled ground cover."

    However, the Missouri Botanical Garden gives pretty much the same description for the U.S. native Clematis virginiana/Virgin's Bower, except for the part about it escaping and naturalizing since it's native to the U.S.A.

    My thought is that you're going to grow something that has the potential to be aggressive, it's best to grow something native to your geographic area, since foreign plants (like Japanese Honeysuckle) can really screw up your garden ecosystem and escape into wildlife habitats where they wreak havoc on those areas. Just google "Japanese Honeysuckle" or "Lonicera japonica" and you'll see what I mean.

    Anyway, looking forward to seeing what other posters suggest!

    Here is a link that might be useful: Clematis virginiana (Virgin's Bower)

  • 15 years ago

    I have both Sweet Autumn and Virgin's Bower. The VB is much easier to control but the downsize is no fragrance. The SA is a bit invasive even if you cut it back to the ground once it's mature. I have mine in a bad spot and have been cutting it back a bit every couple weeks since early spring to try to keep it under control for the summer. I am going to let it go at the end of the season to see if it still flowers. If not I may dig it out. I pull out the suckers when I can. My opinion is...well worth growing in the right spot. A chain link fence not bordering anyone else's property is good but be weary of your neighbors yard.

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  • 15 years ago

    Well, I've spent a fair amount of time fighting honesuckle and multiflora rose to keep it out of the woods on properties I've worked at. Didn't realize until I Googled it that the native wild clematis, VB and Sweet Autumn Clematis were different, and that the non native one was invasive. It's the smelly one I want. The wild clematis is not showy enough to waste space on it in my tiny, tiny, tiny urban downtown row house yard. I don't feel there's much danger of my stuff invading a pristine natural area, the best luck a seed from my yard would have is to land on some vacant urban corner. I haven't read anything about the clematis being a big problem around here, but maybe that's because it is not very commonly grown or sold in nurseries.

    I don't mind cutting back the upper foliage, to keep it trained along the fence. My neighbors have a grape vine trellis that they have to keep after, but the roots don't wander, just the tops. But after that rose experience, I just don't want something with root suckers, because then I have to go into my neighbors yard to pull the stuff up, and it risks disrupting things, in my yard and hers. I don't want to accidentally uproot her tomatoes or something like that. Maybe I should go with a regular clematis. I sure do LOVE, LOVE the smell of the Sweet Autumn Clematis, and the flowers are pretty too. It smells like baby powder.

    I have such a tiny yard, I can never decide what to plant, because I am torn between wanting stuff to eat, smell and look pretty. I had to tear out my beloved crab apple which has all three qualities, because it was overrun with rust. I didn't treat it at first because the Cooperative Extension folks said it was just "cosmetic." But eventually the whole thing became infected and distorted and covered with the stuff. And I realized that the soil where all the leaves fell would now be infected for years to come. I finally put the poor thing out of its misery. Now there's a huge hole in my garden and I can't decide what to put there. So far I am replacing the tree with a red ninebark, but I don't know about along the fence behind it and on either side.

  • 15 years ago

    Some of my favorite gardens were ones I planted in urban environments -- even had some nice gardens on fire escapes! The great thing about gardening in an urban environment was I never had to worry about plants self-sowing into the woods, and also, the luxury of no deer. Since you have a good bit of concrete around, you wonÂt have to worry so much about an invasive, non-native plant self-seeding into a wildlife habitat.

    HereÂs some other stuff to consider about sweet autumn clematis:

    1. The seeds will get blown around and distributed by the wind, so your neighbor may get clematis growing in their yard too. The best way to combat unwanted seeding is by cutting sweet autumn clematis back after it flowers but before the seeds ripen. You may find yourself pruning a lot.

    2. Sweet autumn clematis climbs by tendrils. Not sure if it sends out root suckers.

    3. Sweet autumn clematis is banned in 6 states because itÂs so aggressive. I would check out the link below for comments on the Garden WebÂs clematis forum about sweet autumn clematis before you buy.

    Other white-flowered scented vine options:

    Moonflower (Ipomoea alba): Has white, fragrant flowers that open in the evening. IÂve never had success with it, but have a friend that had great luck with it in an urban setting up north. Really pretty. Usually an annual vine in Zone 6. Needs full sun, and blooms late (mid-August). Lighter weight than the sweet autumn clematis and may be better for a fence area.

    Here is a link that might be useful: GardenWeb Clematis forum: Sweet autumn clematis

  • 15 years ago

    I do worry about invasiveness, but with one plant I can manage to keep it under control. For example, I had butterfly bush in a garden that I judiciously kept deadheaded so it would not go to seed. VB with all those tiny flowers migh be another story. And sadly, those cool star shaped seeds are part of its appeal! Thanks for the tips, I think more research is needed, and I can't find it in any nurseries around here anyway.

    I have seen moonflower seeds, and have read some good things about it. I use the garden more at night anyway, since I am at work during most days, and work late. That's why I'm kinda partial to white and light pink flowers. The only reluctance I have for moonflower is the same one I have for morning glories along the fence. Talk about invasive. We have to really struggle to keep the wild morning glory weeds at bay here. They hide, spring up overnight, and are ubiquitous! I am so sick of looking at those darn buggers that I can't hardly bear to plant a relative, even a pretty one, lol!

    Yes, I know I am lucky about no deer. I try and remember that while I am cursing mice, rabbits, squirrels, house sparrows, chipmunks and skunks. Yes, for some odd reason we had a neighborhood chipmunk, although they don't do too well. If you do plant something nice in an urban environment, all the "wildlife" flocks to your yard, most of which are vermin in the city. Yes, an occasional cardinal and goldfinch. For example, I planted sunflowers and the neighborhood squirrels snapped them off even before the seeds were ripe, and proceeded to drag them into my neighbors yard's to tear apart. Then there are the diemboweled tomatoes I find on my porches from other yards. There just aren't the brakes on these little critters populations around here. Although cars are pretty good predators! The hawks try, but it's hard for them to maneuver.

    If my life weren't so hectic I'd get a little dog to put out there on patrol.

  • 15 years ago

    Yeah, I guess a clematis may need a lot of deadheading...still not sure if we'll try planting one.

    Thanks for the tip on how much morning glories & their relatives self-seed, because I've only grown morning glories in a total concrete urban environment.

    Another option you could try for your fence area might be a row of tall perennials. You could get a bunch of them and plant them along the length of the fence. Not sure how much sun you have in the fence area, but I assume it gets a decent amount of sun since the roses were growing there.

    Perennials that might work:

    Phlox "Flower Power" (Phlox maculata): This is a really tall phlox with white, amazingly fragrant flowers. Gets about 3 1/2 feet tall. But speaking of critters, either a rabbit or a groundhog just munched all the young leaves on our phlox a few weeks ago. But you can spray phlox with some some kind of natural organic critter repellent. Or you could plant some natural herbs near it that animals don't like such as lavender or garlic. This reminds me, maybe I should plant some lavender near our phlox.

    Phlox "David" (Phlox paniculata): Gets about 2 to 4 feet tall. White, fragrant flowers that bloom from July to September. Beautiful and smells so nice.

    Oriental Lilies: There are some amazing white fragrant lilies that get really tall, like "Casa Blanca," which gets about 3 to 4 feet tall. You won't have to worry about any animals eating the lilies since lilies so extremely toxic to small animals and they tend to avoid them, but if you or your neighbor have pets it might not be a good choice. We've had good luck with Oriental lilies in Zone 6. They are huge this year, but they don't seed all over the yard at all.

    Obedient plant: "Summer Snow" or "Miss Manners" (Physostegia virginiana) I don't think these are all that fragrant, but have nice white flowers and get about three feet tall. Also probably toxic to animals so they will avoid it. The white ones are reported to be more well behaved than the purple ones which can spread by underground shoots. Haven't tried growing this one yet.

  • 15 years ago

    Was at a really big nursery yesterday, and they had what they were calling "Virgin's Bower" for sale. The tag did say clematis, and some variety name starting with "R" but no species info. Really pissed me off that none of the tags at the nursery had species info.

    I saw some pretty phlox, almost bought. Bunnies are a huge problem in my yard, they are decimating my blueberry bush and asters. They slip through the holes in the fence when they are babies, although the rabbits can get through the gate part to a point. I don't want to use nasty smelling sprays, that defeats the purpose of growing a fragrant garden. I have shasta daisy seeds which I will probably scatter around, as I already have some. They look fantastic at night.

    They also had kiwi, the northern kind. That might be a possibility instead of the clematis. I don't find the clematis all that attractive when not in bloom.

    So, anyone grown kiwi vine? I saw it once. Not that pretty, but the person who had it said she got berries from it.

  • 15 years ago

    That is such a drag when nurseries don't put the species info on the tag.

    The one you saw at the nursery could be Clematis recta, also known as "Ground Virgin's Bower."

    It could also be Clematis terniflora (Sweet Autumn Clematis) with the clematis family name "Ranunculaceae" on the tag.

    But if it's a "Ground Virgin's Bower" (Clematis recta), it could be a really good choice for your garden because the Ground Virgin's Bower is much more well-behaved than the Sweet Autumn Clematis vine.

    Ground Virgin's Bower is more like a shrub rather than a climbing vine. It spreads only about 2 to 4 feet rather than 20 to 30 feet like the sweet autumn clematis. Can be trained to climb on a fence, and has the same pretty white fragrant flowers as the Sweet Autumn Clematis. Native to Europe. If the one at your nursery is Ground Virgin's Bower (Clematis recta) I would go for it!

    Arctic Beauty Kiwi vine (Actinidia kolomikta) could also be good. Not as aggressive as the Sweet Autumn Clematis. You would need to get both a male and a female plant to get any fruit from it. Has fragrant small purple flowers.


  • 15 years ago

    Thanks so much Topie for the great tips!

    I have to go back to the nursery because I forgot to get some things, so I will write down the variety of that clematis and look it up. It did say it grew 3-4 feet, which kinda surprised me. So it may be that one species.

    The kiwi said "self fertile" but I was kind of skeptical. Again, no species listed on the tag.

  • 15 years ago

    You're very welcome -- sounds like the plant at your nursery could be Clematis recta/Ground Virgin's Bower if it grows 3-4 feet. Feel free to keep me posted, and happy gardening!

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