Subscribe for 99¢

5/16/01 Wednesday Webster Groves, Mo. - One of the varieties of Clematis growing in the backyard of Jean Simon of Webster Groves. ( Clematis 'Nelly Moser' is one of the few varieties in Simon's yard that will take partial shade. It blooms in June and September. ) This specimen is called Nelly Moser. This is for a Becky Homan stylewest cover. PHOTO BY J.B. FORBES

Q • I am planting a clematis vine in front of a trellis in full sun, but I was told I need to plant something in front of it at the bottom because the vine at ground level cannot be exposed to direct sun. If this is accurate, can you recommend a plant to put at the base? Someone recommended a Cardinal plant, but I was concerned that its expected growth height of 3 feet might be too tall and would cover too much of the clematis. A • There’s an old saying about clematis that it prefers “its head in the sun, and its feet in the shade.” The point being that it prefers its roots to be cool and moist. Whether the shade comes from a well-placed stone, small plants or even simply an organic mulch matters not.

Even tall plants could be utilized, provided they’re placed a little farther away from the base of the clematis, just as long as they cast a shadow onto the root zone. Just choose a plant whose flower and foliage colors don’t clash with the color of the flowers of your clematis. Apart from all that, be sure to provide a trellis that’s tall enough for the mature vine to grow upon, so its flowers will be held high enough for you to enjoy.

Write to Chip Tynan of the Missouri Botanical Garden at or Horticultural Answer Service, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, 63110.