Advice on controlling clematis

xray(Zone 5)May 14, 2010

Good day to everyone,

I'm planting a mystery clematis on the north side of a cedar fence that I share with my neighbor. He's a nice enough fellow, but when I told him he may see some clematis vines and flowers sneaking through the fence from my side he was less than enthusiastic.

I guess I need to put something on the fence to keep the clematis from growing through to the south side. I am thinking perhaps some fiberglass window screen because it would be subtle but I'm not sure its fine enough. Anyone have experience with this arrangement? I would appreciate your feedback.

Thanks and have a great day.


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treebarb Z5 Denver

All my clems are babies, so I don't know how sturdy a support they need. Cedar fences don't seem to last long in our climate, or maybe just poorly installed ones and he's probably concerned that you're planting something that may shorten it's life further. Can you support it from your side? Give it some pvc pipe or rebar, something besides the fence to establish itself on?
It's nice of you to care, being a considerate and good neighbor!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 8:03PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Xray,

Clematis are generally one of the most manageable vines you can have. They CAN get big, but they can also be cut back severely every year is you want to. If you go that way, come back and ask me to link a good site about pruning themdifferent types get pruned differentlyÂand I donÂt have time right now to find the link.

TheyÂre one of the few vines that donÂt sucker, so it wonÂt be spreading anywhere other than where you planted itÂno problem with it growing under the fence! I found out when I was looking for something to grow up my privacy lattice that virtually all of the other vines are definitely, or can become invasive. When I get around to it IÂm gonna be putting in some clematis to grow up the lattice!

I recommend you put up a trellis or a lattice a few inches away from the fence and grow it up that. Clematis are great growing on trellises, and that would keep it from trying to sneak thru the cracks in the fence! The only way I can imagine it would become a problem is since youÂre planting it on the north side of the fence, it might keep trying to grow "toward the south" for the sun! But if itÂs on a trellis with a little bit of clearance between it and the fence, you could easily "redirect" it or snip off wayward stems.

Gotta go! If you want that clematis link let me know and IÂll be back in a couple days.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2010 at 2:35AM
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xray(Zone 5)

'Barb / Sky,
Thank you very much for the advice. I'm feeling much better about how to move forward now.
Yes Skybird, I would appreciate the link when it is convenient for you.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 10:40AM
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I can't believe your neighbor is opposed to seeing some clematis flowers peeking on his side of the fence. Wish you were my neighbor! I have almost 20 clematis, some of them up against ceder fencing. None of mine are over 3 years old yet, but some of them are finally taking off this year. As others have mentioned, they are not invasive (I wish!), so you don't need to worry about that aspect. When it gets tall, you can flop it back over itself on your side of the fence.

It will benefit from something more to cling to than just the fence, and something I've found that works well up against a fence (or against anything really) is chicken wire type fencing. You can buy it by the roll at hardware stores. I'll try to upload a couple of pictures so you can see an example. It pretty much disappears against cedar fencing, though you can see it in these pictures where it's against our garage.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 5:12PM
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david52 Zone 6

Sorta related, I've found that clematis won't climb up trees without some sort of trellis. They can't find anything to cling to.

And I now have 3 separate vines that have grown from seed out in the flower beds. There are from jackmani, and come true for flower type. The seeds take something like 6 months to germinate.......

All in all, about 3 years after planting one, they are spectacular.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 9:04AM
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What kind of bump on a log could ever not be pleased by the sight of some clematis spilling over the top of the fence! Maybe he just doesnt really know clematis and doesnt know what to expect. I didnt say squat when my neighbor planted Virginia creeper all along one of my fences. 4 years later HE decided that wasnt such a great idea, without even a word or hint from me. Actually Id even kind of come to like them by the time he chopped them out a few years ago. Of course theyre still coming up here and there, but thats another story.

I have 4 clematis of several common varieties, similarly along the north facing side of my southern back yard fence. These went in after my neighbor chopped out the Virginia creeper. I think this will be their 4th or maybe 5th year. Theyre off to a great start this spring, and there are lots of blooms already on them that will start opening within the next week or two.
Keep in mind that clematis climb by wrapping the stem of a leaf around something skinny. The main stems do not wrap or wind around things like some other vines do, like a pole bean. If the leaf stems cant find anything to wrap around, the whole vine just falls down. They like to wrap around something about the size of a pencil or thinner. Theres no way they can climb the fence without something like that to climb. If you look carefully at Almonds picture, you can see a couple of the leaf stems have wrapped, and you can certainly see how tall and straight the main stem is. It isnt curling around anything at all, and is not particularly inclined to go behind her wire fence at all. Without leaf stems wrapping, it would just fall.
For mine, I went to H.D. and bought a long roll of 3 foot wire fence, with squares about the same size as that seen in Almonds post above, but this fence is coated in some kind of green plastic. The green stuff helps it just disappear into the background behind the vine, and helps keep it from rusting. I cut 6 foot lengths of the stuff, and then cut each lengthwise. I bent each 6x1.5 piece length wise into a low semi-circle. So when I stood it up vertically against the fence above each newly planted clematis, it stands out 3 or 4 inches from the fence at the middle, allowing the vine to easily grow both in front and behind it, and allowing the leaves to easily wrap around the green coated wires. I then used my staple gun to staple each side to the fence. I think if the wires were up close to the fence the leaves wouldnt be able to wrap, and the vines would just fall down unless I trained them purposefully or used ties to tie them up. It worked great, and now that the clematis are taller than the fence, you really cant even see the green wire trellis. It just disappears into the greenery of the vine.
I dont think any part of the vine sticks through the cracks in the fence. Only the part at the top can be seen by my neighbor. I dont think there would be any need to put screen up the side of your fence to keep the vine from getting through the cracks. Clematis are not that vigorous. You should EASILY be able to just pinch off, or retrieve any bit of vine which you can see is sticking through. Ive never done this, and I really dont think ANY part of my clematis vines is sticking through the cracks. Ill check when I get home this evening, and let you know.
The clematis seem to like the location. With the angle of my fence line, as the saying goes, "Theyre feet are in the cool shade, and their heads are in the sun". They go to the top, and then sort of spills over a foot or two with blooms on both sides of the fence. Im pretty pleased, with them. Ill try to do a pic later this week if I can find time.

Be patient. Mine didnt reach the top of the fence till spring of the 3rd year.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 3:18PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

If I dont do this now, Ill forget it!

The site is linked below. This is a really excellent site for everything Ive ever had to look up regarding clematis. Im linking the home page for access to all the different info, so just click on the pruning link on top.

The information youll find describes the three "different types" of clematis and how and when to prune them. This site is from the UK, tho, and where they say to prune the group 3 ones hard in February, Id probably modify that to sometime in March! But you still get the basic info.

If you dont know what you have, generic pruning directions would be to prune as much or as little as you want to soon after they finish blooming. And clematis, like most things, will fill in more bush out more, if theyre "pinched," so when its small I recommend pinching it (snip the tip of each stem off just above a leaf joint) every time it grows a couple sets of new leaves on each stem. Itll probably take longer to produce flowers, but that way youll have a lot more stems producing the flowers when it does bloom.

If you go to the A-Z part of the site and look up any individual clematis, it will tell you what "type" it is. If yours is one with a smaller purple flower ones, you most likely have Jackmaniithe one David is talking about. Its pretty common, and its a group 3 type which will get pretty barren looking on the bottom if its not cut back at least every now and then. Since you dont really know what yours is, you should be able to tell what type it is when it finally starts blooming by the size of the flowers and when it blooms.

If you want to look at some pretty pictures, look up Candida and Henryi! Theyre two of the ones I want to get. HUGE white flowersdinner plate size. The first one is all white, and the second one has dark anthers for wonderful contrast.

One more thing I almost forgot! When youre working with clematisplanting, tying up, pruningyou may see stems that look like theyre broken in half! Theyre not! Clematis stems (the older ones) have a hard "bark" exterior with a soft stem that runs loosely thru the middle of it. The outer "stem" can look completely brokenbut the soft stem inside can still be just fine, so dont freak out if it looks like the stems are breaking or broken. Look more closely, and very probably the inside stem is still fine and it will keep growing regardless of what the "outside" looks like. (When I first started working with clematis I thought the "broken" stems werewellbroken! I was pruning them all offuntil I stopped to look closely enough one time and realized there wasnt anything actually wrong with them!)

If you start looking thru the pics on this site, youll want them all!

Good luck with yoursand with your neighbor!


P.S. Heres another one I want some day!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 9:41PM
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