The Grump firmly believes that people should smell good at all times, which is why he showers in Brut every morning. He thinks gardens should smell good too, which is why he covered the arbor entry to his side garden with a vine called Armand clematis.
Unlike most species of clematis, this one (Clematis armandii) is evergreen. Each leaf consists of three glossy, dark-green leaflets that droop down 3 to 5 inches. I can't think of an evergreen vine with prettier foliage.
Of course, the sensational flowers really sell this clematis. They're incredibly fragrant. I planted the one you see here after it had been stored in a 3-gallon container in a very large room overnight. When I opened the door in the morning, the sweet scent practically knocked me down.
The pure white flowers, about 2 inches across, appear in great profusion in early spring. They last for a couple of weeks and then they're gone. After they fade is the time to prune this clematis and believe me when I say this now and remember it later -- you will have to prune. Armand clematis is a very vigorous grower once established and will grow to the tops of trees if you let it. Right after the flowers drop, it sprouts a thicket of runners on the top, each one looking to latch onto something and climb. My electric hedge trimmers put a quick end to this, something I have to repeat once or twice more during the growing season.
Armand clematis is very easy to grow. Its major limitation is cold. You can expect a lot of brown leaves if the temp drops to 10 degrees. I wouldn't plant it anywhere where winter temps reach near zero. Other than that, it's pretty simple. Give it full to part sun and well-drained soil. That's it. It tolerates drought and has no pests.
It's an easy plant to find where I live in Alabama -- most nurseries sell it and now is a good time to plant. If you can't find it locally, you can order through the mail from Fantastic Plants.
Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to shower. Lemme see -- one bottle of Brut or two?