QUESTION: I am looking for a white, late-blooming clematis. What can you tell me about it? – Franny
You are probably describing the late-summer-blooming vine that is either sweet autumn clematis or the vine commonly called virgin’s bower. They are both deciduous vines, look similar, and bloom about the same time, but there’s a difference.
Clematis terniflora, the sweet autumn clematis, is a vine that is native to Japan. Here’s what the Southern Living Garden Book says about it: “Tall and vigorous (some would say rampant)…Self-sows readily; can become a pest.” They admit it makes a good privacy screen with its “billowy masses of 1-inch wide, fragrant, creamy white flowers in late summer, fall.”
Digging deeper, I found it listed as a “lesser threat” (as opposed to a “severe” or “significant threat”) by the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council, which lists invasive plants. Not long ago, a friend who has it in her garden told me it is covering up other shrubs in the garden, and she will have to pull it up. Consider yourself warned.
The vine called virgin’s bower is C. virginiana, and it’s native to the eastern U.S. It’s described as having “bright green foliage; profuse show of sweetly fragrant, 1¼ inch white blossoms in 3 to 6-inch long clusters in late summer, fall.” It also goes by the common name “devil’s darning needles.” It may also self-seed and could get out of hand if you don’t pay attention, but at least it’s not labeled an invasive pest.
The sweet autumn clematis is likely the most readily available in nurseries and garden centers; to find virgin’s bower, you may have to look for nurseries that specialize in native species. Here are three in theNashville area:
Growild, a wholesale nursery in Fairview that welcomes retail customers by appointment (http://www.growildinc.com/); Nashville Natives, which provides plants for sale at Whole Foods and Gardens of Babylon (http://www.nashvillenatives.com/); and Moore & Moore Garden Center, a retail nursery at 8216 Highway 100 (http://www.mooreandmoore.com/)