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England: Clematis vine needs a little maintenance throughout year

POSTED: July 22, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Editor's note: This is Russ England's final column for The Times. After five years of gardening advice, he's decided to spend a little more time planting instead. Extension agent Wanda Cannon's gardening Q&A column will begin Aug. 1

Question: Now that my clematis has finished blooming, should I prune it?

Answer: Proper pruning will help your clematis grow more vigorously and produce more blooms. The correct pruning method depends on the type of clematis you have.

There are three basic pruning techniques for clematis. You will need to determine what type you have, either from the plant tag (which should specify either a group A, B or C cultivar) or by paying attention to how and when it blooms.

If your clematis blooms early in the spring and does not die back in the winter, it probably doesn't need much pruning. After blooming, cut the stem tips of these group A cultivars to keep them in bounds with their climbing support and prune side branches near thin areas to direct new growth toward those thin spots.

Reblooming clematis and the large-flowered double varieties usually fall into group B. Many older doubles produce double flowers on old wood in the spring and single flowers on new wood later on; some of the new double hybrids bloom double in spring and summer.

Prune group B plants as they begin to leaf out in the spring. Do only light corrective pruning to remove broken or dead stems, thin to balance the vine's appearance and trim back the tips of new growth to encourage branching.

If your clematis dies to the ground during the winter or if the flowers tend to cluster near the top, with lots of dead foliage and bare stems at the base of the plant, it is likely a group C cultivar. These are summer and fall-blooming clematis that bloom on new wood produced in the spring.

Cut these group C cultivars back severely in the spring. For the first two or three years cut them to within a foot of the ground or to two or three buds; prune older plants a bit less severely but still to two feet or so.

Don't prune any clematis in the fall or winter. Doing so may stimulate new growth that will be killed by a later cold snap.

Q: How can I kill Chinese privet? I cut it down, but it keeps sprouting out from the stumps.

A: Chinese privet is one of many invasive exotic plants that seem to be literally taking over in many areas. Privet, kudzu and English ivy are probably the three most common plant pests that frustrate homeowners.

I use a broad-spectrum herbicide containing the active ingredient glyphosate (Roundup was the original brand) to kill all three of these pests. I use a product with 42 percent active ingredient and dilute this by 50 percent with water (net result is 21 percent glyphosate).

Cut privet as close to the ground as practical and spray or paint the glyphosate solution directly on the stump. The same technique works well for kudzu and English ivy that is climbing trees.

Dear Readers: I have been writing this column for five years now, far longer than I ever imagined when I began. While I have enjoyed writing it and have learned a lot in the process, I believe it is time to turn it over to someone else.

My thanks to all of you who have offered words of support, encouragement and constructive criticism. Today's column will be my last, although the column will continue with a new author.

Wanda Cannon, Master Gardener coordinator for the Hall County Extension Service, will be taking over the reins. Her first column will appear Aug. 1.

Russ England is a Master Gardener trained and certified in horticulture and related areas through by the Georgia Cooperative Extension.


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