Given as a gift from Christopher upon our first face to face meeting in 2008, seeds had been given to him from another garden blogger in San Francisco to help jumpstart his new North Carolina garden after moving there from Hawaii. The world shrank thanks to the words and photos personally posted on the world wide web by a diverse trio of virtual friends. The gift proved its merit the next year.
It was new to me, this gift of a tiny seedling with the stand up name of Clematis stans, but back in 2008 many now familiar plants were unknown quantities. Blogging has opened many doors. While the gift was still quite small, research showed it might not be much to get excited about. There was little information about this plant to be obtained from a Google search, but this was near the top, from Clematis International:
Gardeners who grew up on Christopher Lloyd’s may recall with a chuckle his characterization of Clematis stans as bearing flowers “of a spitefully non-contributory off-white skimmed-milk colouring.” It is not known how many sufferers from clematis lust over the years cheerfully decided that this was one plant they need not bother to try, and left it to the hopelessly addicted. But to re-open the question, we offer a no less pungent line from a famous non-contributor to botany, Ira Gershwin: “It ain’t necessarily so.” Clematis stans is a variable species, and though its flowers differ over a narrow range they are not all alike. In different forms they may vary in shape from slender to chunky, and in colour from white (through skimmed-milk) to a soft lavender-blue. Not to mention that a great part of the attraction of this species lies elsewhere, in its handsome coarse foliage and the intricate branching of its upper reaches.
It is native to Japan, where it is called kusabotan. It is not a vine, but a sub-shrub—the sort of clematis that is usually described as “herbaceous erect,” though it can in some situations develop a woody base. Every year it forms a new clump of strong free-standing stems, each bearing three widely-separated toothy-edged leaflets, which have the valuable garden trait of holding their fresh green colour even through the season of bloom. It is a trait they share with the closely-related C. heracleifolia, and the species is still sometimes found in nursery lists as C. heracleifolia var. stans.
Even though I adore white flowers of all sorts, even those non-fat dairy types, it was cause for unbridled glee when the gifted Clematis stans turned out to sport blossoms of a Delft blue hue.
Planted at the base of a standard-trained Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ being supported by a stout metal fence post, the somewhat lax stems are braided up the support to keep the flowers at eye level for the camera-wielding gardener/photographer.
Searching the earth around the metal fence post for whatever, we came upon this seedling. It appears to be a blessed baby Clematis stans, being nursed along by the nanny grape hyacinth bulb, completely out of the ground but still growing and the rambunctious bodyguard golden creeping jenny. Oh happy day! There is nothing more thrilling than free plants, and free plants begat from free plants is home made fudge topping on the organic vanilla ice cream sundae.
Plant facts about Clematis stans:
Shrubby herbaceous perennial
Prune to ground level in winter
Hardy in USDA Zones 5-10
Sun to part shade
Adequate moisture with good drainage
Native to Japan at forest edges in the mountains
Grows 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall, 3 to 4 feet wide
Support is helpful to keep a smaller width
Blooms late spring into fall
Variable blue colored flowers
Give this one a try. Highly recommended.