This handsome low-growing cultivar is the first hybrid to appear as a Clematis of the Month, though it is a far cry from the large-flowered climbers that we usually have in mind when speaking of hybrid clematis. 'Joe' is evergreen rather than deciduous, a rambler rather than a climber, and owes its charm as much to its finely-cut foliage and arching stems as to its flowers. It is also a rather new arrival in the clematis world, not much more than ten years old.
'Joe' originated from seed of a New Zealand hybrid called C. × cartmanii, named after the respected botanist Joe Cartman who produced it. The parents were two native species, C. paniculata and C. marmoraria, both highly desirable garden plants but quite different in habit, and both make their mark in 'Joe.' The graceful curving stems and almost fernlike foliage are reminiscent of C. marmoraria, nowadays a plant in high esteem with alpine gardeners because of its dwarf stature and abundant flowers. But 'Joe' is built on a somewhat larger scale. It is capable of producing stems as much as eight feet (2.5 meters) long, though as usually grown-in a container or prostrate-it tends to develop much shorter stems, form a clump, and remain low. Its vigor and the somewhat ampler scale of its leaflets and flowers may be a gift from C. paniculata, by common consent the most impressive of the New Zealand species.
When the flowerbuds appear in early Spring they remain like little pops for several weeks before opening into the rounded flowers seen in the photograph. These remind us winningly that all clematis-whether they look like it or not-are Buttercups.
At first it was thought that 'Joe' might be too tender for outdoor planting in Northern
Europe and the colder regions of North America, and it has not been thoroughly tested in
severe cold, but it appears now to be able to withstand mild winters with reasonable
protection from the wind. As with other early-flowering clematis, any pruning that seems
desirable to groom the plant should be done when the Spring bloom is just past.
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