My darling clematis

(Yes, a totally cheesy play on the name “My Darling Clementine”. Though it does clarify that the name clematis is accented on the first syllable. Note: this posting is mostly clematis appreciation.)

Passed on by Joelle Stepien Bailard, another wonderful flower painting by Emil Nolde, this time of clematis in the purple range:

(#1) Japanese-Impressionist Clematis (1934)

A great many varieties of the plant grew wild throughout most of the world; then from the 16th century on, plant collectors began to spread a number of them to Europe and elsewhere; and programs of selective breeding and hybridization eventually produced an extraordinary range of gorgeous flowers.

Previously on this blog: my 1/25/19  posting “Nolde to de l’Écluse to Busbecq”, with a section on Emil Nolde’s tulips and other flower paintings  (under the influence of Vincent van Gogh).

From Wikipedia on the genus, with a lot of information about names:

Clematis is a genus of about 300 species within the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. [On the family, see my 8/21/15 posting “More plant families”.] Their garden hybrids have been popular among gardeners, beginning with Clematis × jackmanii, a garden standby since 1862; more hybrid cultivars are being produced constantly. They are mainly of Chinese and Japanese origin. Most species are known as clematis in English, while some are also known as traveller’s joy, a name invented for the sole British native, C. vitalba, by the herbalist John Gerard; virgin’s bower for C. terniflora, C. virginiana, and C. viticella; old man’s beard, applied to several with prominent seedheads; leather flower for those with fleshy petals; or vase vine for the North American Clematis viorna.

… The wild Clematis species native to China made their way into Japanese gardens by the 17th century. Japanese garden selections were the first exotic clematises to reach European gardens, in the 18th century, long before the Chinese species were identified in their native habitat at the end of the 19th century.

After it arrived in Europe, it acquired several meanings during the Victorian era, famous for its nuanced flower symbolism. It came to symbolize both mental beauty and art as well as poverty.

More detail from clematis authority John Howells on his “Howells on Clematis” website:

There are over 400 wild varieties of native clematis, in fact most countries in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere and to some extent in the southern hemisphere have species of clematis. For example, C. alpina is found in eastern Europe and C. cirrhosa in Mediterranean countries, C. vitalba in Britain, C. montana in India, C. lanuginosa in China, C. patens in Japan, C. aristata in Australia, C. afoliata in New Zealand and C. virginiana in America.

Early plant collectors brought examples back to Europe, which were soon to enrich [its] flora. One of the first to be introduced to England was C. viticella, which was brought from Spain in 1569. This was followed in 1596 by three other European species, C. cirrhosa, C. integrifolia and C. flammula. They were all used in hybridising programmes to produce new varieties. It was not until the 19th century that the stock for the large flowered clematis, which is so admired today was introduced from China, C. lanuginosa for example and C. patens from Japan. The Victorians took to clematis in a big way and the pioneering nursery of Jackmans once held a list of 343.

It’s the large-flowered hybrids that are the garden stars. Some of the wild small-flowered species are invasive pests — C. vitalba in the Santa Cruz mountains, in particular.

Two of the most popular large-flowered hybrids are ‘Nelly Moser’ and ‘Jackman’s’ / ‘Jackmanii’, both of which we grew in our Columbus OH garden:


The Jackman variety is violet. Fully blue, the variety ‘The President’:


Then purple-red, in ‘Volcano’ / ‘Mazowsze’:


And fully red, in ‘Niobe’:


Nolde’s elegant, almost ethereal, impressionist clematis in #1 is somewhere in between Jackman and Wazowsze, or a mixture of them — both violet (on the blue side) and purple (on the red). It floats in this middle territory.

4 Responses to “My darling clematis”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    For many years, I thought Clematis was accented on the second syllable; tangentially, and somewhat indelicately, I had the same illusion about clitoris.

    I have a Clematis vine with purple flowers like the Jackmanii, but it has a different name (which I have forgotten).

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      The number of named varieties is mind-boggling. I spent some time looking for one closer to Nolde’s, but of course Nolde’s is a clematis of the mind.

      As for pronunciation, I’m betting that there are some BrE-speaking gardeners who insist not only that the accent is on the second syllable, but that the vowel of that syllable is /e/ not /æ/ (so that clematis would rhyme with rate us).

  2. Bob Richmond Says:

    The first-syllable stress is attested in a verse of Alfred Tennyson’s “The Window” (1866), a cycle of poems Tennyson wrote at Arthur Sullivan’s (of Gilbert & Sullivan) request for a poem he could write a song cycle to.

    Vine, vine and eglantine,
    Clasp her window, trail and twine!
    Rose, rose and clematis,
    Trail and twine and clasp and kiss….

    Old-timers in southern Appalachia stress the word on the first syllable.

  3. [BLOG] Some Thursday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

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