Gina Parkinson sings the praises of a climbing clematis that offers spectacular rewards in the spring.

THERE are plenty of spring flowers beginning to fill our gardens at the end of March: daffodils, of course, as well as pulmonaria and crocus, euphorbia and primrose.

But in our garden the most spectacular this year is a climber, Clematis armandii 'Apple Blossom', an evergreen plant with long leathery green leaves and the most wonderful of crop of early spring flowers.

This rampant specimen will grow apace once established. Mine was a birthday present planted four spring ago. The first couple of years it did little and produced no flowers.

Last year we had a good show along one wall, by then it had stems about four metres long.

This year it is magnificent with an eight-metre growth along one wall, around a corner on to another wall then over French windows and around another corner to hang over the kitchen window.

The pink-tinged white flowers are massed above the foliage and gently move in the slightest breeze. They are slightly scented so, when growing this plant, it is worth having a few stems within nose reach.

Clematis armandii originated in China and is hardy down to -15C, although wind chill damage can occur at such a low temperature. It is unfussy about soil in terms of acidity or alkalinity but what it does need is a moisture retentive medium which doesn't become water logged.

Like many members of the clematis family, it likes its feet in shade and flowers in sun so it is best grown with other plants around its base to keep the soil cool. They will also serve another purpose, because Clematis armandii tends to be reluctant to produce new lower shoots resulting in bare, woody growth at the bottom of the plant. Medium height shrubs or perennials will hide these stems.

Once this clematis is established it will have few problems. Defoliation in a severely cold winter winds can occur in exposed sites but should re-grow the following spring.

If this is a persistent problem it is probably an indication that the plant is in the wrong place and needs to be moved to a more sheltered place.

The plant may outgrow a confined space so make sure there is plenty of wall or fence for the stems to be trained along before planting. Pruning isn't essential but old shoots can be occasionally removed to thin the plant out and encourage rejuvenation.

Weekend catch-up

EASTER is early this year but if the weather is kind it marks the start of the gardening calendar for many gardeners. Bear in mind that, because it is still early and we are likely to have more cold temperatures before the end of May, don't plant tender specimens out yet.

Overcrowded clumps of snowdrops can be divided now they have finished flowering. Lift the clump carefully, avoiding as much root damage as possible and prise the bulbs apart. Replant immediately, placing them10cm/4ins deep and 10cm/4ins apart. Don't remove the foliage, let it die back naturally dduring the next few weeks.

Plant fair

A REMINDER that the first 'Yorkshire Grown' Plant Fair will be held at Green Garden Herbs, West Bank, Carlton near Selby on Saturday April 2 and Sunday April 3 from 10am-4pm.

Ten specialist nurseries, all from Yorkshire will be there with a range of plants on sale including alpines, ferns, grasses shrubs and herbaceous perennials. All the nurseries are small independent businesses.

Visitors will also be able to look around Green Garden Herbs, which stocks more than 400 varieties of aromatic, culinary, medicinal and ornamental herbs.

There will be nursery tours at 11am and 3pm. Admission to the fair is free and light refreshments will be provided by Perennial - Gardeners' Royal Benevolent Society. Green Garden Herbs is just off the A1041 between Carlton and Hirst Courtney.

Gardening TV and Radio

Sunday, March 27

9am, Radio Leeds, Joe Maiden and Tim Crowther.

Noon, Radio York, Down to Earth. Presented by William Jenkyns. This is the last time Down to Earth will be broadcast on Sunday lunchtime, a slot has had for ten years. As from Sunday April 3 listeners can hear the programme at 9am on Sunday morning with a repeat the following Wednesday at 8pm.

2pm, R4, Gardeners' Question Time. An hour long Easter special chaired by Gill Pyrah with Bob Flowerdew, Pippa Greenwood, Anne Swithinbank and members of Floral Guernsey Council. Also Roy Lancaster talks to Christopher Lloyd and the definitive guide to dianthus. The Gardening Weather Forecast is at 2.25pm.

Monday to Thursday

2.50pm Monday, 2.15pm Tuesday-Thursday, C4, The Great Garden Challenge. Green fingered teams compete to win a place in the grand final. Presented by Janet Ellis and Chris Beardshaw.


8.30pm, C4, The City Gardener. The owners of a long, thin front garden in Plymouth challenge Matt James to come up with a design that provides privacy, ease of access and an eye catching water feature in serene surroundings.


7.30pm, BBC2, A Year At Kew. John Dransfield visits Madagascar in search of a rare Ambositra palm.

8pm, BBC2, Royal Gardeners. Alan Titchmarsh looks at how horticultural styled bloomed under Charles I and II only to be flattened when puritanical Oliver Cromwell came to power.

8.30pm, BBC2, Gardeners' World. The shrubbery at Berryfields is given texture with the planting of grasses and raised beds are added to the alpine area. Plus a visit to the RHS Spring Show in London.

Open gardens

Wednesday March 30.

In aid of the National Gardens Scheme.

Londesborough Cross, Shiptonthorpe, five miles from Pocklington. Turn off the A1079 York-Hull road down the side of the church in Shiptonthorpe, Londesborough Cross is at the bottom of Town Street. Former railway goods yard has been transformed into a garden with many features including water features, bog area, borders, island beds, pergolas and arches planted with climbers and a new woodland garden with a collection of ferns and other woodland plants. Open 1-4pm, Admission £2.50 adult, accompanied children free.

Updated: 08:48 Saturday, March 26, 2005