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clematis - The President

Stuck with a problem, I built a 6ft high trellis fence 'windbreak'. Essentially it's 3 6ftx6ft panels attached to posts. On each I have planted clematis. These are plants a number of years old, and having been shifted from cramped large pots, have gone beserk! They are all type 2, and I stuck some wire fencing over the trellis to give them something to grip to. The Nelly Mosa and old man's beard dahlia type, have been quite good staying quite compact and I'm gradually training them to cover the whole panel. In the middle I have 'The President', again a plant that's maybe 5 years old, but it has insisted on only growing 4 or 5 main shoots. These have now reached the top of the trellis, and compared to the other 2, looks very threadbare. So now, do I sacrifice flowers this year, and prune back these 4 or 5 main leaders down to say 18 inches? Hoping that each will then throw maybe 4 or 5 more shoots  and thus cover the trellis? I have two presidents, they both have always grown quite lanky and spindley, I'm thinking maybe I'm missing a trick here, and not getting the flowers up the plant I should, just at the very tops..

Looking for advice from folks who have been successful with 'The President' in particular.



  • SwissSueSwissSue Posts: 1,447

    Eh? What has that got to do with The President?image

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,036

    Oh flippin 'eck - PTL again - it's spam - they want us to check out their website and then they'll score more hits and move up the list on Google image

    I've reported it as Spam. image

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • chickychicky Posts: 10,391

    Back to the President - I have two in their second year, and both are growing very slowly, with only one leader each !  But with Group 2 clematis generally I don't prune back, just train the shoots that are there so they go in a zig zag up the trellis (or bring them back down in a loop if I have missed them and they have gone straight up to the top) - that way you get coverage with the limited shoots you have.  Not sure its the right way, but works for me in most cases.

  • BrummieBenBrummieBen Posts: 460

    Thanks for the replies, I know the soil is not a problem as it was meticulously prepped with manure for the first foot, then mix of sifted soil and compost for the top foot of soil. Then a generous amount of growmore into this top foot. This was the whole problem I face chicky, I know if I prune it back hard, I will lose the flowers this year, but I should have a much better 'framework' for next year. Anyone think this is a good plan? I guess I'm on here looking for justification for not having flowers this year!

  • little-annlittle-ann Posts: 878


     can any of you confirm this is the president it has some rain on 

  • BrummieBenBrummieBen Posts: 460

    looks like it to me, I've also had further thoughts, if I keep removing the apical growth, then surely all the dormant buds down the plant should be activated and should bush it out? This way I'll lose some flowers but not all, and should get the plant thickened up nicely?

  • WintersongWintersong Posts: 2,436

    They do say that clematis should be pruned back the first year -at the sacrifice of flowers- to encourage more shoots but I've never done this.

    I let it do its own thing and from experience two things occur.

    1. it does perfectly well without pruning, generally setting up a nice coverage over three years.

    2. it gets hammered by winds and I lose the lot (rather like pruning back) and it regrows the following year with a dozen new shoots.

    So, the choice is moot really, either way, give it a couple of years and you will have what you want image

  • SwissSueSwissSue Posts: 1,447

    BrummieBen, I've got a President that I planted last year and cut down. This year it has only two spindly but 5foot high leaders with no sign of any buds. Have googled "spindly leaders on clematis The President" and apparently it's usual for this plant. Most say cut it down to about 18" above a bud, but there are only leaves all the way down, so I'm in the same quandrary as you are. Shall think about it for another couple of days, to do or not to do, that is the question!image

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,924

    Brummie have you tried giving it a mulch and therefore 'burying' it a bit deeper? It  encourages more shoots from the base which is why we're always told to plant clematis deeper that they are in the pots you buy them in.Perhaps that might encourage it to produce a few more new shoots at  the bottom. Or perhaps you could could even replant it a bit deeper? image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,391

    About 5 years ago my specimen (about 3 or 4 years old then) was also very tall and lanky with just 3 or 4 stems.  I'd say it is particularly prone to getting lanky.  I cut it completely down to the ground in the next early spring and was rewarded by it sending up 11 new stems!  I plan to do exactly the same next spring as it is pretty bare for the first 3 feet this year.  Some say the 'proper' way to do it is to remove about a third of the stems every year, but I find it impossible to remove the cut stems without damaging the ones I want to keep.  Even when cut back to the ground, it still managed a good show, but only one flush of flowers and much later than normal.  Like all of my clematis, it was planted 6" deeper than in the pot it came in, so there's a good root crown.  It might be risky cutting a shallowly planted clematis to the ground.

    Back to your question, I think your method should work, BB - it should have the same effect as partially cutting back after flowering which is often recommended.

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
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