Clematis ‘Ville de Lyon’

What is interesting about Clematis, and also peonies which act the same, is that they are sold mainly through mail order, some through garden centers, and almost none at all are installed by landscapers, which means that landscape architects/designers do not specify them in the designs.  I have no idea why that is.  Maybe they are hard to maintain or are tricky to grow.  Sometimes people will ask me why their peonies do not bloom.  Usually these people are from about two states away and I have no idea what might have happened during the planting process, or subsequent plant care, or even what the soil is like and therefore I have a quick stock answer; which is that they planted them too deep.  No one ever argues with me that I would have no idea in the whole wide world about how deep they planted them, which amuses me even more that they would ask me in the first place.  The other benefit of that answer is that I am seldom subsequently bothered for more free plant advice.

Clematis ‘The President’

Clematis is a whole another story, it likes to have cool roots in the shade and warm tops in the sun and, when transplanted, every time, it should be potted an inch or two deeper to keep the crown damp and down in the soil.  We have done business for nearly 35 years with Szcezepan Marczynski (he answers to Stefan) over in Poland who can be contacted by googling this series of words:  Poland Container Nursery Clematis.  We have purchased upwards of seventy thousand bare root clematis annually, delivered by air freight in January or February, during that period.   Our business relationship has been unexcelled.  We have some interesting discussions around the house as to whether this is because of my sparkling personality or because my wife pays the bills on time.  I will not burden you with the conclusions.

As mentioned a few times, we took over management of the nursery about five years ago after a good fifteen year run with our Operations Manager doing all of the work and getting burned out.  I enjoyed life during that time and look back on it fondly.  Anyway, when it became clear that I was going to have to go to work I analyzed the business and substantially changed the business model to make my life easier; with age comes wisdom.  These days we grow deliberately for the landscape trade—selling to re-wholesale yards, commercial landscapers, and normal people, delivering to landscaper yards and job sites, wherever the business is.  Sometimes we will sell to a garden center as long as they do not complain too much and we have a few accounts who do business with the mass merchants—we are not tough enough to deal with the big box mass merchants at this stage in life.

Clematis ‘Kaiser’

And so, we are phasing out of the clematis business.  Very little of it was to our target market anyhow.  And then our prize clematis grower found a job working for a city parks department—with age came wisdom for her also—and so I made the decision.  Therefore, I recommend to anyone at all who wants to grow clematis to do business with Stefan.  He is smart, having done a year of post-doctoral work at Cornell, and ethical, and he takes the business seriously, collecting clematis varieties from all over the world.  I have been to Poland twice visiting with Stefan during which time I have taken all three of our children.  Stefan gives the most interesting, thorough, educational, and ultimately sad, tour of Warsaw.  Poland has had a rough time.  Stefan has been over to visit our nursery half a dozen times chatting with us and training our growers.  You are invited to visit our nursery to learn the schedule we have found to be successful for clematis container production.

And that brings up one of the interesting side-benefits of being in the nursery business—the opportunities to travel around the world and to meet interesting people.  Being a member of the International Plant Propagators Society (IPPS) has been an important part of the world tours.  I want to thank Peter Orum for inviting me to attend my very first IPPS meeting.  Before he recruited me, I had no idea there was such an organization.  It has been a long and interesting ride.