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Ask a Master Gardener

Dear Master Gardener:

I’m confused. I would like to plant a clematis and I see them growing in Brainerd gardens. But everything I read about them says they are not hardy in our zone 3 area. How can this be?

Perhaps a little information about clematis can help you. There are three types of clematis and they differ from one another in how and when they flower and how they are pruned. Type 1 blooms in the spring on old growth, with buds forming the year before they bloom. Therefore they should be pruned immediately after flowering and before buds form in July. Examples of Type 1 clematis are ‘Pamela Jackson’ and ‘Markham’s Pink’. Type 2 produces flower buds on both old (last year’s) and new (this year’s) wood. It further subdivides into two-flush (May/June on old wood and September on new wood) and continuous (June through September) bloom periods. Examples of Type 2 two-flush clematis are ‘Miss Bateman’ and ‘Nelly Moser’. These should be pruned between flushes and only lightly. Examples of continuous bloomers are ‘Dr. Ruppel’ and ‘The President’. Type 3 clematis bloom on new growth and flower continuously, July through September. They are usually pruned to the ground each fall or early spring, leaving only the lowest buds to encourage new shoots in the spring. Examples of Type 3 are the very hardy and popular purple ‘Jackmanii’ and ‘Madame Julia Correvon’.

Yes, most clematis varieties are listed as zones 4-9 but most zone 4 cultivars grow well here, especially those that flower on new wood since buds that must overwinter can easily freeze. Trust your local nurseries to stock only hardy varieties. A clematis vine requires a structure—a trellis, a fence, a post—to climb on, though occasionally people let one crawl along the ground as a ground cover. The old advice in growing clematis is that they like warm heads and cool feet, meaning that they like their tops in the sun and their roots kept cool with moisture and mulch. An eastern exposure or a southern one with some midday shade works well.

Clematis is Minnesota’s showiest vine with flowers that range in size from 1-5 inches and come in colors from pale whites and yellows to vivid red and deep purples. There is even a lovely white native clematis, Clematis virginiana, (commonly called ‘Virgin’s Bower’) for those who favor natives. It is aromatic, hardy in zone 3, blooms August through September, and produces attractive seedheads. There is a good example of one near the gazebo at Northland Arboretum.

Dear Master Gardener:

I bought a beautiful trellis on a closeout sale last fall and would like to plant a climbing rose. Is it too cold up here for climbing roses and are they difficult to grow?

It is not too cold in the Brainerd Lakes area to grow beautiful, hardy climbing roses. Agriculture Canada has developed many hardy roses for northern climates. Of all the climbing roses they have developed, ‘William Baffin’, of the Canadian Explorer Series, is probably the most well known and grows 7-9 feet tall. It is very vigorous and has double, deep pink flowers with repeat blooms. ‘Louis Jolliet’ is another pink cultivar that gets 4-6 feet tall and is disease resistant. It has a trailing habit, spicy fragrance, very double blooms, and is also a repeat bloomer. ‘John Davis’ has double, light pink blooms and gets 5-6 feet tall. It is slightly susceptible to powdery mildew. ‘John Cabot’ is from the Canadian Explorer Series, gets 8 feet tall and has double, deep pink flowers, which blooms predominantly in June and July. ‘Captain Samuel Holland’ is a disease resistant cultivar, with medium red blossoms produced in clusters of 1-10, that gets about 6 feet tall and blooms throughout the summer.

Dear Master Gardener:

My friend had a lovely, lavender flower in her pots last summer that looked similar to a small rose. She can’t remember the name, but she purchased it as an annual at a local nursery. What could it be?

It sounds like it could be lisianthus, which are delicate, elegant flowers that do look like small roses. They are grown as an annual in Minnesota. Lisianthus hybrids are long-stemmed flowers that come in lavender, dark purple, various shades of pink, and white. These plants are very difficult to grow from seed, so you may want to look for transplants at your local nursery. Lisianthus should be planted in moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter, in full sun. Plant them in the spring after the last frost date, historically between May 22 and June 4 in Crow Wing County. They are very long-lasting cut flowers that can last 2-3 weeks in a vase.

Crow Wing County Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers for the University of Minnesota Extension Service. All information given in this column is based on research and information provided by the University. To ask a question, call the Master Gardener Help Line at 218-824-1000, extension 4040 and leave a recorded message. A Master Gardener will return your call.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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