Somehow we have not said enough about vines or creepers or climbers, as you may variously call the plants that ornament walls, railings, arbors, trees, and so on.
Among the best are the numerous sorts of clematis. They have two faults; first, they sometimes succumb to a fungus, loosely called "wilt", which kills them to the ground (though they usually sprout again), and second, the little pot-grown plants often do not survive being planted directly into their permanent garden positions.
As for the wilt, I regard it like a bus - if it hits you, it hits you. There is nothing to be done about it so far as I know. Yet I wonder if wilt is quite so common or quite so diszstrous as many gradeners think.
It should not keep the gardner from planting these beautiful vines, in my opinion.
As for the wretched little plants, grafted, that we get in the spring, the best way to handle them (I am convinced) is to bring them along in a larger pot, with an 18-inch stake, until early October, then plant them out where you intend them to remain forever.
Of course there may be many gardeners whose care is sufficient to nurse the plants along without any trouble from the beginning - even when planted in the garden right from the small pots in which they are sold.
Clematis vines of many types are said to like lime in the soil, but some of the handsomest I ever saw were growing back of azaleas and auratum lilies in a bed of leaf mould and peat. I know that most of them like leaf mould - rotted leaves or compost - and they like shade at the roots, with their heads up on the sun.
I have a young plant of C. 'Henryi' that starts up in the shade of a purple-leaf barberry.
I have a good-sized rock set over its roots to insure shade and moisture, but the top is in full sun, up on an arbor where it tangles a bit with the grapes known as 'Buffalo' but which shows no sign of buffaloing the clematis.
Across a narrow walk from this white clematis is a young pomegranate bush. My idea (and I suppose it is not necessary to observe that ttese ideas almost never work as planned) was to have the white saucers of the clematis, the vermilion of the pomegranate flowers, against a very dark purple barberry.
There is no point going down a list of the ordinary garden clematis varieties, since all of them seem to me beautiful. It is impossible to dislike 'Nelly Moser' (the old adage, "Let not poor Nelly die" often occurs to me when I see it), which is virtually white with a pinkish mauve stripe down the center of each petal, and 'Romona', which is grayish sky-blue with a bit of lavendar. I once grew the red 'Ernest Markham' up a big bush of the rose called Mutabilis,' which has single wild-rose flowers of madder, yellow and vague-or-ange.It never worked out very well, but the idea was excellent.
Such vigorous climbing roses as 'New Dawn' might well accomodate a clematis - perhaps the late-blooming purple 'Lady Betty Balfour,' since there is no point having the rose and clematis bloom together, really. But if the two bloom at different times, you get two shows on the same bit of ground.
Clematis montana rubens is a pinkish clematis about two inches in diameter that blooms in great profusion during the late daffodil season or with early azaleas.
I have tried several times over many years to establish this clematis (one of the finest plant introductions of the late E.H. Wilson, who found it in western China early in this century) with out success. I think at last I have it going, but dare not boast.
There is nothing delicate about its health, mind you.
It will grow all over a dead maple or apple tree - two trees that are substantially improved, I think, by being dead with clematis all over them, and for gardeners lucky enough to be able to grow the yellow banksia rose (a couple of kind readers inform me they succeed with that rose, which is so popular in Savannah and Charleston) this pink clematis is very pretty, if somewhat gaudy.
I have twice lost C. armandii to the cold, but I know gardners as far north as Philadelphia who have succeeded with it. It is notable among garden clematis for being evergreen, with white flowers in late March or thereabouts.
One plant I liked as well as anything I ever grew was the rose-crimson C. texensis, which only grew six or seven feet high, with foliage somewhat like a columbine and little urn-shaped red blooms of waxy substance.
Theoretically, any clematis can be transplanted from one spot in the garden to another, but on the several occasions I have done this I have lost the plant forever, and would not willingly move a clematis again once it is settled.
Perhaps I should say the pink mountain clematis mentioned earlier is supposed to grow up a dead maple along with Rosa soulieana, which has flowers like blackberries, along in May, and also is supposed to tangle with another rose, 'Violette,' which is purple and which is supposed (since we are busy outlining what these various things are all supposed to do) to weave itself in with R. soulieans.
As I say, these things don't work out, and people wonder what there is you like about your garden, since they do not know (and certainly do not see) the gorgeous effects you have planned so carefully.
Another clematis I like is C. tangutica, which has flowers like a turnip-shaped child's top. That is, the top is turnip-shaped and so is the clematis, though the flower is only an inch long, borne on a stem perhaps five inches long.
The vine is covered with these flowers in late spring or early summer. They are soft yellow. Later there are seed pods of feathery appearance.
This clematis varies - sometimes its leaves are almost gray, sometimes with little gray indeed in the green, and I have noticed sometimes the leaves are firmer and more leathery in some specimens than in others.
I am trying to make mine grow up a post, which I presume it does not mind doing, only it has not been but a few months.
All these clematis are chancy when young, since the stems are brittle and easily snapped off. I have been told that slugs like to eat the young shoots, and I suspect sowbugs and cutworms as well, since I have often seen sowbugs in great numbers where I have lost a clematis.
Everyone must have seen how pretty a clematis is when grown up a lamp post or mailbox post - assuming you have an orderly postman who does not step all over everything.
Look for clematis plants early in March at plant shops or gardener thinks of them in May, when none are to be had. One established, they are no more trouble than a honeysuckle.