Upper South

May, 2012
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Clematis
Short clematis, tall clematis. Clematis with bell-shaped flowers, clematis with broad, flat flowers. Clematis flowers in the colors of the rainbow. Some variety of clematis is in bloom from early spring right up to fall frost. A half dozen different clematis in my garden have already been blooming for several weeks and others will soon follow. Who or what we fall in love with is certainly a personal matter, but there is much to recommend clematis to any gardener. The taller climbing types especially add an often-needed vertical element to the garden whether the vining stems are supported by trellises or arbors or allowed to amble up and over trees and shrubs. Clematis grow best in fertile, well-drained soil enriched with plenty of compost. Most will thrive in full sun to partial shade. A key to success is to plant the top of the root ball 3 to 5 inches below the surface. Mulch clematis well to maintain even soil moisture and feed with a low-nitrogen fertilizer in late winter, then again in early summer. As to pruning clematis, remember that there are three different pruning methods, depending on the clematis variety. Be sure to make a note of how each of your clematis should be pruned in late winter.

Tool or Gardening Product

Mulch
A mulched garden certainly looks nice, but there are several other factors that are much more important reasons for mulching garden areas. An organic mulch helps to suppress weeds, moderate soil moisture and temperature, and decompose and improve the soil. I use a dark hardwood mulch that is partially composted, which means it breaks down in about a year, enriching the soil below. I buy in bulk and have it delivered. On most areas, it's applied about 2 to 3 inches deep every spring. Whenever a mulch is placed around trees, I keep it several inches away from the trunks.

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