Clematis cirrhosa balearica

This evergreen species comes into its own in the winter garden.

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The evergreen parsley or fern-leaved clematis, Clematis cirrhosa balearica is one of the saviours of the winter garden, flowering as it does between December through to March, a time when every flower is to be cherished. The species comes from the mountains and valleys of Southern Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa, including the Balearic Islands after which it is named.

The plant is clothed in small, glossy, dark green lobed leaves on twining stalks which enable it to scramble and secure itself to supports. The foliage often becomes bronze tinted in winter. From December through to March clusters of small bell-shaped creamy-green flowers are produced, each variably spotted in maroon. They are also said to have a delicate citrus scent. After the flowers have faded feathery seed heads are produced in spring.

Most varieties are derived as distinct colour forms found in the wild, while one, Advent Bells, is a recent hybrid crossed with a related species from China. It will need training to a support and tying in, especially in the early years, so it covers the surface evenly, and doesn’t become congested. They can also be draped over a gazebo or arbour or used to clothe old an old tree-stump.They don’t need any pruning, except for trimming and keeping them in shape.

Fern-leaved clematis prefer a sheltered, sunny site, preferably south or west facing. They will grow in most moist, well-drained soils, but won’t stand being waterlogged in winter. They are also effective grown in large pots or tubs, but will need adequate support and training, so they don’t turn into an unruly tangle.