Clematis napaulensis has been in the past a specialist’s plant and not in the mainstream of nursery plants, but along with the related Clematis cirrhosa and its tribe in their winter bloom, it is worth a look. It is for gardeners who want a winter-blooming clematis unusual in both foliage and flower and can give it the protection of a wall from where its flowers can be best enjoyed.
Depending on the planting site and weather, flowers begin in late autumn or early winter. The flowers develop in lax clusters of several bells, usually beneath a set of leaves and are among the most distinctive in the genus. Each one is on a stem of its own, with the bract part-way down. The colour of the sepals may vary somewhat from plant to plant and season to season, in a range from greenish white or cream to pale yellow. One or two of the four sepals will usually curve back enough to give a view of the long, protruding anthers, a deep reddish purple against the lighter background. Although classified as a climber, Clematis napaulensis needs some training and support initially.Its stems lignify so rapidly that the plant is almost capable of standing free and does not require pruning to keep it healthy or productive, but if it gets too dense, it is easily reduced or shaped up when flowering finishes.
To render credit where it is due: this Himalayan species was introduced in 1912 by the incredibly industrious plant-hunter George Forrest, from seed he collected in the Yunnan province of China, where he also collected many Rhododendron species and the beautiful Cotoneaster lacteus. It was at first named for him, Clematis forrestii, but later found to have been already named here as described.