I’ve blogged about my clematis before, but I wonder if I’m the right one to raise clematis. Clematis defies me and exasperates me. I like things neat, orderly, and predictable. Clematis is messy. In fact, clematis is disorder personified and wild in the truest sense of the word. The shoots grow fast and in every direction possible. They have no single minded pursuit of a goal. They just…grow! I like control; I like things to go – and grow – the way *I* want them to be. Clematis defies prediction and direction. Sure, I can make suggestions to it, kind of … guide it the way I HOPE it will grow, make sure it has support so it can keep growing without falling over or breaking off. But really, when it comes down to it, the clematis decides where and how it will grow. Clematis is … FRUSTRATING
I don’t understand clematis. I can learn about its development; I can study it in books or online; I can read about other people’s experiences with clematis. But when it comes to tending real live plants, it’s an ENTIRELY different story. Clematis is definitely a “learn as you grow” plant. And every clematis, depending on where and how it’s grown, has unique personality, unique character.
Clematis does not come with instructions, not REALLY. Descriptions like “keep the roots cool and the foliage in full sun” are laughingly insufficient. Apparently, I’m supposed to fertilize it – like every 4 weeks. I have never fertilized my clematis. I’m supposed to plan other plants underneath it to keep the roots cool and the moisture in. Uh…nope. Oh, and I’m supposed to water it, too. Just ask my husband how good I am about that chore. (hint: watering? what’s that?)
But apparently, clematis is incredibly resilient. Three weeks ago, I tried to be a good gardener. I came out with tools and determination to care for the clematis in the early spring like it should be cared for. It didn’t go well. I pruned a gigantic part of it down to nothingness in frustration and despair. It was overgrown, heavy, swaying, unruly. I couldn’t fix it, so I essentially started over, years and years of growth and training sheared away in minutes. I was sad. No, I was sick. I had lead in the pit of my stomach when I did it. I was sure I had irreparably harmed it forever, that it was going to die – there were only a few small shoots of new green growth left when I was done.
But yet, in less than a month, the clematis regrew. In fact, it more than regrew – it THRIVED. Where I ruthlessly pruned it, the clematis has climbed as high as it’s ever been and seems set to exceed expectations for the year. Some days, I can literally see a difference in growth from morning to evening. It grows whether I train it or not, whether I prune it or not, whether I water it or not. It just. keeps. growing.
But somehow, even though it baffles my very nature (hee hee – pun intended!), this plant brings me joy. I love how forgiving it is. It DOES grow – no matter what I do to or with it. Its shoots reach out like arms and its flowers smile on me even when I don’t feel like smiling. I LOVE how my porch turns into a literal outdoor room bounded by life-affirming greenery and in time, exuberant purple flowers. I am sitting outside on the porch now as I write this, and I am so peaceful, relaxed, and calm. Clematis does that!
I love how the clematis draws other life to our house. Birds nest in our clematis. And hummingbirds flit around the vines when they are in bloom – even though the blossoms are purple. I love it when people compliment my lovely porch in spring and summer, even though I know I had very little to do with how it looks. I apologize for the ugly brown, dead-looking vines when people visit in the winter. But I smile wisely inside because *I* know that the new growth comes best from the old, that appearance of death – which is simply rest and not death at all – is the price we pay for spring and summer glory.
So maybe I *am* the right one to grow clematis after all. Maybe I’m supposed to learn life lessons from my clematis – patience, vision, foresight, acceptance, love. Maybe things are just as they are supposed to be.
(P.S. You probably think I just blogged about my clematis. That’s what I thought I was doing when I started writing this post. But replace the word “clematis” with the word “kids” and…)