As much as I like to wander through the garden center, it is dangerous. I often come upon some beautiful, new plant that tempts me and I buy it. Usually I don't spend a significant amount of money on these impulse purchases so I look at them as harmless experiements. Yesterday's impulse buy was a little more costly.
Here's what happened. I went to the Tipton County Master Gardener's spring gardening event in Brighton, where I had a soil test done on one of our azalea beds. The test results showed that we needed to add elemental sulfur to make the soil more acidic. So, on my way home, I stopped at a garden center to buy the sulfur and, of course, I couldn't resist taking a stroll around the nursery. I spotted an evergreen clematis of a type I'd never seen before, and I thought I had the perfect place for it. (Knowing where I wanted to use it is a bit of an improvement for me since I've been known to impulse buy without a clue of where I might use the plant.)
I looked at the tag and saw that it was hardy in zone 7, and, even though it cost $50, I decided to buy it. We have an area near our garage entry where the gas and electrical meters create an eyesore and I've been looking for an attractive way to hide that messy area. Last year, I placed some lattice in front of it and planted several small clematises on the lattice. That works fairly well in the summer, but they go dormant in the fall so I thought this evergreen clematis would be perfect added to the mix.
Here is a closeup of the plant, Clematis cartmanii 'Blaaval' (sold as 'Avalanche'). I like the bloom, the unusual leaf, and the fact that it grows somewhat smaller than the more familiar evergreen clematis, Clematis armandii.
I was very pleased with my purchase until I got home and started researching this species. I tend to go to those gardening sites where actual gardeners report about their experiences with the plant, and I was appalled to find broad agreement that this is a very difficult plant to grow. I don't mind taking this kind of gamble with a $10 plant (after all, there's always a chance that I might luck into finding just the right conditions for it), but the odds of success seemed to be so low that I felt sure I was throwing away a $50 investment. I decided I would return it.
But then Jack came in and convinced me to take a shot at it. So I'm going to do some further research today about what I can do to prepare the planting site to give it maximum chance of success and how to give it optimal care over the summer, then I will plant it. And cross my fingers. Wish me luck . . . .
The moral to this story is this: the best time to research a plant is before you buy it.