The clematis is an enduringly popular genus from everybody’s favourite vowel-devouring plant family, the Ranunculaceae. There’s about 300 different species of clematis, many with their own individual common names. To name a few: you’ve got the ‘traveller’s joy’ which is the only variety native to Britain, the ‘old man’s beard’ which applies to several with prominent seed heads and the ‘leather flower’ for those with particularly fleshy petals.
The actual clematis is derived from Ancient Greek, which immediately makes you think (as is the case with so many flower etymologies) there’s gonna be a bizarre, juicy bit of mythos to explore here. No such luck with the clematis. It literally just means ‘a climbing plant.’
Still, full marks for accuracy, cos that’s exactly what clematis (clematises? clematii?) do best. Most of them are composed of vigorous, woody climbing vines, and I wonder if their symbolism – they’re supposed to represent ingenuity – stems from the clever way they manage to shape themselves to trellises and walls.
Not only do they grow tall, clematis also produce majestic, showy blooms – particularly those varieties that flower in the summer months. From the velvety purple flowers of the sneaker co-signing clematis ‘warszawska nike’, to the regal white shades of the ‘alba plena’: there’s a clematis for every garden, every wall, every bouquet.