At the White Flower Farm, a nursery at Litchfield, Conn., which I visited a few days ago, they were growing clematis in a way that might be handy for people with small gardens.
Instead of encouraging the vines to grow to 20 feet (it is always my instinct to grow anything at all as large as possible and never mind if there's room for it) they grow them on wire cylinders about two feet high. The vines go up then fall down and tangle in an agreeable way, and are a mass of bloom in their season.
If you had a small city terrace there is no reason you couldn't grow clematis around the edge of it on cylinders instead of on walls or into trees.
As far as that goes, the large-flowered clematis look fine just growing on the ground or tumbling over old stumps or rocks. The trouble with growing them without support, however, is that as they run along the ground some animal is likely to race through them breaking the stems. This happened this year, for example, when my wife's ill-trained terrier put an end to a dark purple clematis I wanted to grow flat, behind the fish pool, to tumble up to the edge in a great luxuriant billow. Max found it excellent for galloping through, though since the clematis has been ruined he has lost interest there.
My moon vine is only about 12 feet high so far, despite copious watering. These night-blooming vines with their great white saucers look best when you have a mass of them covering a lot of space, and about 20 feet high, but you do not always have room for that.
I was amused at White Flower Farm to detect a little tension, of quite minor sort of course, among the staff on the subject of the great wild daylily called Hemerocallis altissima. This has a 6-foot stem, well branched with maybe 30 or 40 buds on it, the flowers soft yellow with an orange halo in the throat.
People who go in for several hundred kinds of daylilies do not usually like the wild species, I have noticed, so I was not surprised some of the nursery staff rather disliked this one. I like it very much, and grow it in a whiskey barrel to get a little extra height. There is no difference that I can see between H. altissima and the old garden variety called 'Autumn Minaret,' by the way.
I promised a man up there I'd send him a root of the wild H. citrina, which blooms at night and collapses by breakfast time. Daylily people usually do not like this one, either, but the man at the nursery had very fine taste. The trouble with promising something, when you hear somebody is keen to find that particular plant, is that then you have to follow through. Which means digging the clump, washing off the dirt and prying off a piece with a spading fork. I do not believe in just slicing through with a spade. All this is great bother and I imagine the man will feel indebted to me. There is no reason he should know I was going to dig it up anyway.
I could not help noticing they grow tree peonies up there better than we do down here, or maybe I should say better than I do. All their plants are grown better than I grow them, though my daffodils are better. Gotcha. Of course they were not in bloom, but I grow more elegant varieties.
I had gone up to discuss a garden tour sponsored by Horticulture Magazine to the gardens of England, from which I returned only a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I could not think of any way the tour could be improved, except maybe the food. Possibly everyone could be flown to France for supper and back? At the nursery the food was basic but spectacularly good. People spoke well of a "mud cake" but ate it all up before I got round to it, and I ate carrot cake in error, complimenting the hostess on the delicious mud pastry. Possibly the two are similar.
Almost anything tastes good in a garden, a fact I attribute to exudates in the air from the luxuriant plants, and a reasonable facsimile of paradise is to wait till it gets on toward dusk, and the weeds are not really noticeable, and sit out there eating a melon, listening to the chorus of night bugs, which are so great an addition to our gardens here. You miss them more than you would think if you go to regions too cold for them. This may be the place to say it is nonsense to kill cicadas, with whom I have lived all my life and never seen the slightest damage done by them, not nearly as much as is done by yokels running about with sprays.