DEVIL'S DARNING NEEDLE - Clematis virginiana
Fall is here and after hiding inside in the cool comfort of our air conditioning, through August, the hottest, driest, buggiest month of the year, our interest in revisiting the outdoors is renewed. Reemerging from self-imposed exile into the garden, it is pure joy, and a relief, to witness the tenacity of late season bloomers that have had to bear, with no assistance or relief, the dog days of summer. One such plant, reliable and prolific, is Clematis virginiana, Devilsí Darning Needle.
Devilís Darning Needle is a North American native that is very similar in habit and appearance to the Japanese native, Sweet Autumn Clematis (C. terniflora) that most of us are familiar with, yet not as aggressive. C. virginiana is a vigorous, twining, deciduous vine, growing about 15í feet in a season. This plant is in best form when planted next to a supporting structure such as an arbor, trellis, fence, tree or shrub. Its quick growth rate makes this an excellent choice where quick privacy is needed. If unsupported, it will sprawl along the ground.
What makes this plant so alluring is its annual, overwhelming display of 1 and 1/4 inch, highly fragrant, star-shaped, pure white blossoms produced in billowy masses in the fall followed by ornamental, silvery, plume-like seed heads. Both flowers and seed heads work well in floral arrangements. This prolific bloomer will not disappoint.
Devilís Darning Needle is an easy to grow, low maintenance vine, rarely troubled by pests or disease. It performs well in moist to wet soil of average fertility and prefers full sun to part shade, although it will thrive and bloom in considerable shade. Supplemental watering may be necessary during times of drought. In late winter or early spring, prune C. virginiana back hard to about 1 foot from the ground. Be certain to leave at least two strong buds on each stem. During the growing season, monitor the vine if it is growing through a shrub to make certain that the shrub is not being overwhelmed. No special care is needed to trim it back to control size.