Not to be outdone by its spring- and summer-flowering brethren, one member of the clematis family waits patiently in the wings. And sweet autumn clematis is worth the wait, as billowy masses of fragrant blossoms cascade from the vine in late summer or fall. The inch-wide blooms open creamy white over glossy dark green leaves. When the flowers fade, they form showy plumed seeds ― fuzzy silver pinwheels that hang on well into the winter.
Native to Japan, sweet autumn clematisis hardy in zones 2-9. The vine climbs vigorously to 20 to 30 feet. Like other clematis, it flourishes in a site where its roots are shaded but its leaves and flowers grow in sun.
Currently, sweet autumn clematis is known as Clematis dioscoreifolia, but you may also find the plant sold as C. terniflora, C. paniculata, or C. maximowiczina. Shop for blooming plants in nursery containers or order (as C. terniflora) from Joy Creek Nursery, 20300 N.W. Watson Rd., Scappoose, OR 97056; (503) 543-7474. Catalog $2.
If you buy one now, get it in the ground soon. Before freezing weather hits, spread a 6-inch layer of organic mulch over its roots to protect them during the first winter. Once the vine is established, prune it in early spring or after it flowers.