What Goes Around Comes Around

Clematis 'Julia Correvon' climbing through Lady Banks rose. Photo: Kit Flynn


By Kit Flynn and Lise Jenkins

A year ago, I developed what I thought was an original idea: Why not plant a clematis with a rose? To me this was a brilliant innovation, one (as far as I knew) I’d never read about—and it made a lot of sense.

You see, roses and clematises thrive on the same growing conditions. They love the sun, although clematises are a bit more flexible as to their sun requirement, they are heavy feeders, and they enjoy a frequent drink of water. Best of all, when the rose begins to cut down on its bloom production, it’s time for the clematis to take over.

I puffed myself up with pride, thinking that my brilliant idea was somehow unique—until I was faced with reality. Suddenly I began catching glimpses of others who had grabbed onto my inspiration. I saw Amazon even offered a book, The Rose and the Clematis as Good Companions by the Englishman John Howells, written in 2007, well before I had my inkling edging towards brilliance.

And this, dear reader, is where you have to reconcile yourself to the fact that someone probably has thought of your gardening concept well before you were even born. Simply put: What goes around comes around.

Another foray into potential wisdom came when I thought to separate my flock of hostas with an occasional light-colored caladium. Alas, I soon discovered that if you google “hostas and caladiums” you will end up looking at many photographs of what could easily be my garden.

I’m not advocating that you should go out and garden in a brainless condition (although I have been known to do so). What I am saying is that you should go with your ideas, act on them, and plant on them. Just shrug off that cloak of uniqueness because, trust me, someone has thought of your idea before you did.

A good garden will reflect your personality. A good garden will contain your unique sense of style. So, while the English have been combining clematises and roses over the ages, I hadn’t—and perhaps my combinations are different.

I did think in terms of color but this wasn’t too difficult as most of my roses are versions of pink or red and many of the clematises I favor contain blue or purple tones. Have I made mistakes? Of course, I have. I planted David Austin’s ‘Queen of Sweden’ last summer—and promptly lost her. She didn’t die but I totally forgot where I’d planted her.

This year she appeared as if by magic, enchanting me with lovely spring blooms. It turns out I’d planted her next to the clematis ‘Sapphire Indigo’ that, at the time, hadn’t put out much of a statement. This year ‘Sapphire Indigo’ is a major presence, dwarfing the ‘Queen of Sweden’. Is the Queen a late bloomer, only reaching her regal five feet in height in later years or is she intimidated by ‘Sapphire Indigo’? Only time will tell.

As for the caladiums this year, at the time of this writing, they still haven’t come up, something that could easily be my fault. I am incapable of knowing which side of the corm is up and which side should go down. Consequently, some are planted on their side, some are planted with one side up, and some are planted with the other side up.

I have no idea if or when they are going to make their entrance.

Gardening is about taking risks. So, while someone has undoubtedly thought of your concept before you, know that if your idea works, you will have created a unique aspect to your garden—a good thing.

Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email: info@absentee-gardener.com

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