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Mature fallen Clematis


To give a context, I know nothing about Clematis' and little about gardening beyond how to start a lawnmower.

We had a sweet chestnut tree in our garden which died about 10 years ago. Rather than chop it down I thought it would be a good idea to use it as a scaffold and grow a few clematis' up it with complementary flowering seasons so that the tree would 'flower' all year.

Only one survived (From Aldi I believe - if any of you want a hot tip). But it did look rather good in spring every year.

A week ago we had a strong wind and unfortunately the tree fell down pulling the clematis with it. It has only bent the clematis stem at the bottom, not broken it.  My wife and I would like to build an artificial scaffold to replace the tree (which is also too heavy to lift as is) but we're not sure how far up we need to cut the clematis stem as the woody part is now quite long. (See picture)

Can we cut it close to the base, or do we need to include green parts, or should we do as my wife thinks (infinitely more knowledgeable about gardening than me but also knows little about Clematis) and cut it about 18" from the base?

Thanks in advance for any of your thoughts on our approach.



  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 7,431
    I would cut it off as low as you need to remove the tree, then tie what's left in to the new support to keep it in place until it starts to regrow (which will probably be spring now). Trying to disentangle it would probably only result in stems getting broken.
    Do you know what kind of clematis it is? Or what time of year it flowers? If it's a spring-flowering one you'll probably lose next spring's flowers, but if it's a late-flowering one you'd be pruning it pretty hard early in the new year anyway, so I don't think cutting it down early would make any difference.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,014
    I expect it's a montana. Just hack it back and provide it with a proper support. They're good for growing through trees, but not dead ones  ;)
    It's not a good enough photo to determine though. A close up of foliage and flowers would help.  :)

    If it is that, they grow to a mighty size in the right conditions, so it would be helpful to you to find out what it is. A standard sized support won't be enough   :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for your reply. It's a spring flowering one - early-mid April I think - but I have no idea what kind it is. Last year we got a late frost and that hit quite a few of the flowers. The flowers are pale pink if that is a clue.

    The main stem goes up four or five foot inside the canopy and I can reach up there easily enough to cut it.

    We've never pruned it and we have always had complete flower cover. Should we be pruning?
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,014
    Montana  :)
    They only need pruning when they outgrow their space, or if needing rejuvenated. You won't damage it by pruning it right back, so don't worry about that. It'll need a huge support though. They grow for miles....
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Yeah - that looks like it. Thanks Fairygirl.

    Okedoke, I'll whack it. We've got a deadish leylandii hedge along one of our borders - about 35 yds long. Perhaps I'll dig it up and stick it next to that.

    Thanks both.

  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,014
    If you're planting it there - make sure you plant it far enough away from the hedge. They aren't the most hospitable locations for climbers. 
    If you move it, make sure you water really thoroughly first, and get as a big a root ball as possible. Prep the new site really well - leylandii removes all the nourishment for miles around. Then water really really well, and keep an eye on it. 
    It won't flower until it gets properly established and that could take a year or two.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Cool. Thanks. At the moment it is about 2 yards from the hedge and is very vigorous. Ideally I'd like the Leylandii hedge to die as I don't like them and it is anyway dead skaggy looking.

    We compost all our veggie waste so if I move it I'll chuck that down the hole before I move the root ball. Now I've cleared the stump of the sweet chestnut tree, I notice that the two other clematis' are still there! Very spindly and sorry looking. I'll see if I can resuscitate them!
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,014
    Dig them up and pot them - into a pot that'll take the root ball and not too much more. Then just leave them over winter. They'll take a while to recover so don't do anything fancy with them.  :)
    Clematis take several years to reach maturity, so the ones you buy in places like Aldi, aren't the mature specimens you'll get from recognised suppliers unfortunately. 
    If you just keep those ticking over, they may flower at some point next year and you can upload photos and hopefully get an ID for them.
    There are thousands of clematis varieties, but these outlets usually sell the easy, more common ones, so it shouldn't be too difficult to narrow it down a little, if only to get the pruning regime.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Thanks for all the advice, Fairygirl.

    I've repotted the two weedies. Can they stay outside over winter given they have managed to survive several years so far? (We usually get negative temperatures during the winter where I live and it can get down to -8ºC to -12ºC).

    If we decide to move the Clematis as opposed to building a new support, when is the best time to do the transplant? Now or in Feb/March?


  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,014
    They'll be fine outside. Just tuck them in somewhere that they won't be annihilated by the extremes of weather. The only types which are a bit more dodgy are some of the small, evergreen ones, but I'd doubt that's what you would have, bearing in mind where you got them   :)
    Either will be fine for moving the clematis. Over winter is ideal because it's less stressful for plants to get established at that time of year. Less watering etc. You'll just have to keep an eye on  it over spring/summer if you don't move it until then, but it shouldn't be a major problem. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

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