A deciduous, partially woody climber, growing 8 to 12 ft high; stems slender, ribbed, and slightly downy when young. Leaves 4 or 5 in. long, pinnate, with the primary divisions trifoliolate; leaflets not toothed, but frequently two- or three-lobed, lance-shaped to broadly ovate, 3⁄4 to 21⁄2 in. long. Flowers solitary on stalks 2 to 4 in. long, or several on a branched stalk; each 11⁄2 in. across; sepals obovate, blue, purple, or rosy purple. Seed-vessels broad and short, with very small tails devoid of the feathery covering so common in Clematis. Bot. Mag., t. 565.
Native of S. Europe; cultivated here since the sixteenth century. The type and the double-flowered form were grown in 1597 by Gerard, who says, ‘they grow in my garden at Holborn and flourish exceedingly’. Many charming varieties have been raised in gardens, the double-flowered one just mentioned (‘Plena’) being one of the least attractive, owing to an excessive multiplication of the sepals, which gives the flower a heavy, lumpy aspect.
f. albiflora (O. Kuntze) Rehd. – Flowers white. It is found wild with the type. C. viticella var. alba of Carrière is a hybrid with C. florida as the other parent.
cv. ‘Nana’. – A dwarf form about 3 ft high, described by Carrière in 1869.
cv. ‘Plena’. – The old double form with purplish flowers, described above. The name was first used by Weston in 1774 and should not be supplanted by ‘Multiplex’: the var. multiplex of G. Don was intended as a group-name for all the double-flowered kinds (he mentioned another with flesh-coloured flowers).
cv. ‘Rubra’. – The old red-flowered form of the species, known to Philip Miller, and so named by Weston in 1774, when it was on sale in London nurseries. Whether the C. viticella rubra of present-day gardens is the same clone is not known.
In addition there are several charming clematises which closely resemble C. viticella in flower and habit but probably have in them a touch of hybridity. Such are: ‘Abundance’, with small soft-purple flowers, veined deeper purple, raised by Markham; ‘Alba Luxurians’, a white-flowered plant with dark anthers, probably raised at Veitch’s Coombe Wood nursery; ‘Kermesina’, with deep pure wine-red flowers, raised by Lemoine; ‘Royal Velours’, with purple, velvety sepals; and there are several others. The clematis known as C. viticella venosa is a hybrid, probably with C. florida as the other parent.
None of the forms and near related hybrids of C. viticella is genuinely shrubby in this country, the summer’s growth dying back in winter nearly to the older stem. They should be cut back in February to the living part. All flower with great freedom from July to September.