Spring and Renewal

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It has certainly been more than just the winter’s months since I last wrote. Last summer was full of sunshine and the bounty of my garden as well as of losses including my English Springer Spaniel dog soul mate, Max. I still miss him every day. I knew his short dog life was just going to be that but the pain is no less because of this knowledge. Two months later it was my German Shepherd girl, Sadie. Both were older, yet helping them cross the Rainbow Bridge was still bitter sweet and rivers of tears.

There have been other losses that were not deaths per se. The emotional toll is still the same. Many days this winter I have felt like the coastal storms and their deluge-ish rains, like my sorrows, would go on ad infinitum. Then there was today. I stepped out of the front door to a beautiful blue sky and sweet perfumed air.

I have a beautiful evergreen clematis growing on the northeast side of my house’s front porch area. It was growing at my mother’s house many years ago but never really thrived, and that is putting it mildly. Because of her frustration with the poor vine’s apparent lack of vigor she was going to “rip it out and toss it.” Fortuitously for both the clematis and myself, I was present for her lamentation and offered to take it home. What a sad sight that straggly vine was peering out from a large black shroud of a garbage bag. Pitiful. I was actually not too hopeful of its survival.

Today was a reminder of spring and renewal, of hope and yes, survival. That initially pathetic little vine has graced the side of my house for years now. Mom did not know what kind of evergreen clematis she had but it looks like an Armandii from the pictures I have seen. The late winter to early spring is the time when this beauty really shines as exemplified by “her” snowdrift of abundant stark white, simple star-shaped beautiful flowers. The clear, crisp air is delicately sweetened by her fragrance. As summer winds down into the cool days of fall I can count on another flush of flowers, not as magnificent as spring, nonetheless beautiful and aromatic. Beauty, strength, resilience.

Each simple flower is a part of a larger cluster. The glossy, dark green leaflets of three leaves are truly evergreen with new growth a bronzy show-off in contrast. Flowers develop on the previous year’s growth. Propagate in early summer with softwood cuttings. This clematis likes full sun to light or open shade according to the experts, and likes to grow in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 9. My beauty gets full morning sun.

A happy vine can reach 25 to 30 feet. I do recommend pruning to keep things in check, keeping in mind the timing is important so you don’t remove all your potential spring treats. However, I had a few years I did not follow my own advice and ended up with a hard pruning session. Naturally the next spring was not graced with a bountiful flowering. That was just that spring. The next year I was again rewarded with an avalanche of spring flowers. Remember, clematis like their feet to be cool! The bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are especially fond of my vine. Slugs and snails are not a problem.

Alert! According to the ASPCA this plant’s toxicity is: Toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.

Toxic Principles: Irritant glycoside (Protoanemonin)

Clinical Signs: Salivation, vomiting, diarrhea.