Jennifer StackhouseAustralian native clematis

I love seeing gardens festooned with clematis (or you may say clematis). It’s a sight that really says spring has sprung. But clematis is something you usually see only in cool and mountain gardens. In hot and humid areas clematis is a non-starter.

For those yearning for that cottagey touch of clematis there is an Australian native option. Clematis aristata is one of six species of clematis found growing naturally in Australia. It is evergreen, has starry white flowers and a habit of smothering shrubs that lie in its path. In other words, it isn’t a prima donna plant.

It’s known by various common names including traveller’s joy, goatsbeard and old man’s beard. Those last two hardly do justice to this pretty plant, but they are also used in the northern hemisphere to describe clematis there. Indeed, its species name, aristata, means bearded.

All this allusion to beards applies not to the flowers but to the seed heads that follow in summer. These have that whispy, feathery appearance.

Its seeds must germinate fairly readily as the plant does seem to appear at will if there are any growing near by.

Clematis aristata grows naturally along Australia’s east coast reaching into northern Tassie and across the southern coast of Victoria. I have had it appear in my garden uninvited but was more than delighted when it grew up and then draped itself over an arch to flower in among climbing roses. At the moment it is in flower along the lane way and spilling out onto the roadside.

If you want to find out a bit more about this clematis have a look at the Australian National Botanic Gardens website and use this link to go straight to a factsheet on Clematis aristata

It was here I discovered something I didn’t know and hadn’t noticed about this native clematis. The flowers are either male or female with either “silky stamens or slender, plumed styles”. I’ll have to take a closer look. It is of course the female flowers that form the seeds.

The native clematis isn’t the only native climber putting on a show in the bush and in my garden right now. The wonga wonga vine (Pandorea pandorana) is also moving into full bloom mode.

At the moment it is smothered in tiny creamy tubular flower buds all about to burst into bloom. I have the species, but for anyone interested there are many named varieties with flowers that range in colour from yellow (‘Golden Showers’) to pink (‘Ruby Belle’) and the pure white form is ‘Snowbells’.


Pandorea ‘Golden Showers’ (Photo Casliber)


These two vines – my native clematis and the wonga wonga vine – really start the spring spectacle in my garden. There’s a tumble of other climbers, shrubs and even trees ready to bloom too.

Already the oak tree is coming into leaf with its catkins showing among the vibrant green of the new foliage and of course wisterias, azaleas and cherries are waiting in the wings. What is now still a grey, wintery, dormant scene will very soon be full of flowers and foliage.


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Jennifer Stackhouse

About Jennifer Stackhouse

Recently Jennifer Stackhouse made the big move from Kurmond in NSW to a Federation house in the little village of Barrington tucked beneath Mt Roland in northwest Tasmania. With high rainfall, rich, red deep soil and a mild climate she reckons she's won the gardening lottery. She's taken on an acre garden that's been lovingly planted and tended for the past 28 years by a pair of keen gardeners so she is discovering a garden full of horticultural treasures. Jennifer is the author of several gardening books including 'Garden', which won a Book Laurel for 2013, as well as ‘The Organic Guide to Edible Gardens’, ‘Planting Techniques’ and ‘My Gardening Year’, which she wrote with her mother Shirley. She was editor of ABC 'Gardening Australia' magazine and now edits the trade journal 'Greenworld' magazine and writes regularly for the Saturday magazine in 'The Mercury'. She is often heard on radio and at garden shows answering garden queries.

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